I’m not a “praise person”. Is workplace praise a big deal?
Is it a big deal if I’m not considered a “praise person?” My co-worker recently made this comment in passing and I have to admit, it stung a little bit.
Hello and thanks for writing. You certainly pose an important question and with impressive brevity, from a business writing point of view!
Apparently, you also keep your comments about others brief, especially when it comes to compliments. Is it a big deal? I guess it depends upon how you define “big.” It’s not a huge problem, but your co-worker’s feedback is worth examination.
You know how you felt when you heard this comment? A strange, empty feeling, maybe?
That’s how your friends, family, co-workers, customers may feel when they put forth substantial effort and it goes unnoticed. We’re likely to assume you don’t care or don’t see us if you don’t state what you notice and appreciate as it unfolds around you.
I’m a fan of sincere praise only. I coach clients to develop their praise muscles. I do several reps myself on most days and intend to keep increasing the weight.
Consider the benefits of genuine praise:
it’s free – costing you nothing more than other-awareness and a little time
it feels good to sender and receiver – it aids mental, spiritual, physical (and probably financial) health
it builds stronger relationships and teaches you about skills you wish you had
it has ripple effects to improve organizational culture and harmony at home
Here’s a quick exercise to fortify praise muscles:
- Jot a few co-workers’ names in a row. Next to each name, list something – anything – you admire.
- A skill (calm on the phone with upset customers?) A personality trait (dependability, humor, patience?)
- A goal achieved or in progress (getting off the couch to walk in Fort 4 Fitness this month?)
Note: the longer it takes to assemble the list, the less your brain is noticing good stuff going on around you. It might be time to forge some new neural pathways.
Finally, choose a medium by which you’ll let them know what you’ve noticed – that’s the last list. Your options: text, phone call, e-mail, in-person chat, handwritten note, sign language, Facebook post, skywriting, etc. Get creative. A good compliment, as Mark Twain observed, can provide months of sustenance for the recipient. It makes YOU memorable. Be careful what you choose to praise, because, through positive reinforcement, you get more of that behavior. It works with pets, it works with humans, it’s simple psychology. In this way, you can shape even your boss’ behavior – and do so ethically.
I’ll close with a recipe I enjoy teaching in GC workplace seminars. Please try it out and report back.
Step 1: Use the person’s name: “Hey Jon…”
Step 2: State what you appreciate or admire: “Thanks for taking time to submit your question.”
Step 3: State how it’s helpful to you or to the team: “Without questions like yours, there is no column.”
Step 4: Say thank you in your own way: “You rock! Keep ’em coming.”