The Power Of Praise In Management

goldstar1What’s the incentive most likely to push you to perform well on the job? A raise, perhaps, or an extra few days of vacation? You might think so, but a recent essay in Psychology Today argues that the best incentive is free and doesn’t require any paperwork from HR: Praise.

Victor Lipman, who writes that he spent decades in management at a Fortune 500 company, makes the case that Since “the single most important factor influencing employee engagement levels is an employee’s relationship with his or her direct supervisor,” he writes, “it’s in everyone’s interest to make thoughtful praise a key component of the managerial mix.”

Lipman mentions a recent national survey that found that only 29% of employees are “engaged,” that is, working at their full capacity. The rest are either totally disengaged, or somewhere in the middle. Brief, well-timed words of praise from a manager can make a huge difference. I know it’s true for me: When I think back to the times when I was most engaged at work, it’s not when I’ve been making the most money, but rather when I’ve had the best relationship with a supportive manager.

Lipman admits this isn’t exactly a groundbreaking argument — “Hey, I never said it was rocket science” — but it’s worth remembering all the same. If you’re a supervisor of any kind, consider the power of a well-timed, genuine “Thanks for the great work” to get you what you want.

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    • Lastango

      I totally agree. That’s one reason why it can be so devastating when a good boss moves on, especially if they’re replaced by someone who doesn’t acknowledge others.

      In my experience, praise can come in many forms. One of the best is recognition for work done, said in front of peers or put on paper. Putting a staffer’s name into a report or letter they helped make possible tells everyone else that this person is important. That encourages other staffers to do their best, so they too can be recognized as contributors. Someone who receives no praise likely thinks (with good reason) they won’t be considered for promotions or key projects.
      Passing along praise from customers is good too, especially if it can be tied to something specific the employee did. We all want to feel like we made a difference to someone else.

      I’m not much for contrived formal recognition, though. IMO, being named employee of the month is manipulative crap, and a condescending pat on the head.