The Value Of Giving Praise And How It Resonates
Managers are always looking for cost-effective ways to improved productivity, performance, and office morale, yet genuine praise—one of the easiest, cheapest, and best ways to do both—is woefully underutilized.
The Harvard Business Review surveyed more than 7,500 people, and 37 percent admitted they don’t give positive reinforcement. The survey also found a correlation between people who believe they give honest feedback and those who give negative feedback.
The researchers noted: “Leaders obviously carry some incorrect beliefs about the value and benefits of different forms of feedback. They vastly underestimate the power and necessity of positive reinforcement [and] greatly overestimate the value and benefits of negative or corrective feedback.”
We couldn’t agree more. Praise is an incredibly valuable tool, and if used wisely, its value will resonate to the benefit of all.
The Value Of Praise
Humans find praise uplifting. That’s because it releases the feel-good hormone dopamine into our brains, which is nature’s way of saying, “Keep doing what you’re doing!” This motivates us to move toward the behaviors that helped us feel so good.
Scientific studies have shown this time and again. One study found dopamine motivates in anticipation of rewards—the greater the reward, the more dopamine released, the greater the drive to reach the reward. Another study found praise-like emotions, such as expressing gratitude or admiration, motivates people toward “self-improvement,” “improved relationships with benefactors,” and “prosocial and affiliative behavior.”
As the research shows, the benefits of positive feedback are neither short-lived nor limited to the recipient. A praise-centric managerial approach has resonant properties on the workplace, manifesting an environment where employees feel they can do their best work and are rewarded for doing so.
Here are some of the long-term benefits you can expect by adopting this approach.
Employees are motivated to succeed and do better. As we’ve already seen, praise is uplifting and prompts people to seek the rewards that lead to that sweet, sweet dopamine hit. What we didn’t mention was it can be its own reward. Honest praise for a job well-done leads employees to improve their performance in the hopes of further praise. This creates a positive, self-perpetuating, feedback loop of improved performance.
Combats turnover. A pleasant work environment isn’t one employees are eager to leave, and a praise-centered approach goes a long way toward improving morale. A survey by Deloitte found “leadership support and recognition are among the top three most effective non-financial factors for retention.”
Further proving our previous point, the survey also found employee engagement, productivity, and performance improved in organizations that recognized its employees’ accomplishments.
Fosters a growth mindset. Some employees freeze when facing a challenge, believing they lack the skills necessary to succeed. This stems from a “fixed mindset”—the belief that talent, skills, and intelligence are fixed traits—and it is devastating to growth, performance, and productivity. Praise, especially for an employee’s development, cultivates a “growth mindset”—the belief that a person’s efforts will ultimately lead to success.
Success breeds more success, but our negativity bias can prevent us from recognizing our triumphs. As a result, a manager that recognizes her employees’ successes will nurture future successes.
Improves team mechanics. Praise improves relationships between managers and their team members, resulting in better communication and more trust. But these advantages aren’t simply one-way. When a manager creates a culture of commendation, employees are more likely to recognize their peers’ successes, spreading the benefits across the office network and bolstering office morale.
Employees Seek Praise
We started this conversation with a survey of the managerial mindset, so let’s wrap up with a look at how employees view praise.
According to a Gallup survey, employees listed public and private recognition from a boss, a peer, or even a client as the most memorable form of praise. Verbal acknowledgements were rated even higher than promotion, monetary awards, or personal satisfaction. (We were surprised, too.)
Gallup concluded that the “best managers promote a recognition-rich environment, with praise coming from every direction and everyone aware of how others like to receive appreciation.”
However, for this to work, the feedback must be honest, specific, timely, and individualized. Generic, one-size-fits-all commendations like “good job” just won’t cut it. To make an employee feel valued, you have to engage positively with a person and their accomplishments on a meaningful level. So, stock up on thank you cards, polish those plaques, and start letting your team know how much you value their hard work.