4 Things to Remember When You Praise and Recognize Employees

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On a daily basis, I track several dozen news and online sources for employee recognition, engagement, motivation and the like.

I’ve read more dry and boring reports and stories than I care to admit. But this Entrepreneur article made me laugh out loud. This intro alone tells you the tone of the article as well as giving good insight into “The Power of Praise in Business”:

“Sure, psychologists and managerial experts agree that you should you praise your employees. But how, exactly, are you supposed to do it?

“Here’s what the psychologists think about praise: ‘Positive reinforcement works better than punishment.’

“Here’s what the management experts think: ‘Employee recognition leads to profit.’

“Here’s what the neurologists think: ‘Dopamine, which is released in the brain any time we hear something we like, is a powerful chemical.’

“Here’s what the psychologists, management experts and neurologists think when someone in a position of power tells them they’re doing a great job: ‘Hell, yeah!’ (That, of course, is the dopamine talking.)”

4 keys to praise and recognition

The article goes on to cite experts from each of those fields on the power of recognition, but the bottom line is clear: Employees need to know their work is noticed and appreciated. Giving that recognition leads to direct business benefits.

So, how do you recognize appropriately? The Why Lead Now blog offered advice similar to my own counsel (summarized below):

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“When it comes to praising and recognition, you need to remember the following rules:

  1. Don’t under-praise
  2. Don’t over-praise
  3. Recognize the masses
  4. It’s not just for your direct reports

“It’s easy to forget to praise individuals because we think ‘It’s their job to do what we need them to do.’ We need to remember the recognizing the effort of individuals is a key ingredient to better quality and better work environments.”

Does your organization appropriately recognize employees? Do you?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.

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3 Comments on “4 Things to Remember When You Praise and Recognize Employees

  1. Great post, Derek. Another point to remember is that it’s not just about recognition and praise; it’s also about feedback in real-time. Many employees aren’t even aware that they’re doing their job right until things performance reviews happen, which are usually inconclusive and generic anyway. Real-time feedback in addition to employee praise can give your workforce a better perspective on not only their performance, but also what they need to do to improve it. 

  2. I particularly like the point about overpraise. Many times, an employer’s “Good Job” sounds more like a mother commending her four year old for being able to tie his shoelaces. I am a seasoned professional in my field, I do a necessary, but routine piece of work that can be done in my sleep. An adult, “Thank you for finishing this on time, I know you have had a busy week” makes me feel I am an adult, gives the recognition without being patronizing. Never, ever, EVER say “Good Job!” to me, particularly for a job that while necessary, is no strain on my brain. It makes me feel stupid.

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