Recognizing a Job Well Done

When was the last time you praised your employees or contractors?  Hopefully, you’ve developed the good habit of frequently praising your team members, and if you haven’t, you’re certainly not alone.  Most of us do not get enough praise, so there’s a strong likelihood there’s room for improvement when it comes to recognition of a job well done in just about every workplace.  Here are some tips to praise more and help your workers flourish.

A Bias for Negativity and Criticism 

Our brains are designed by evolution to feel the emotions from negative interactions, including criticism and especially threats, in an exaggerated fashion when compared to feeling the emotions from positive interactions.  When we spotted a saber-toothed tiger, the brain that noticed and overreacted to the tiger by running away was rewarded with surviving.

That evolutionary trait doesn’t translate very well in the work environment we are in.  It takes a larger quantity of positive interactions versus negative interaction to just keep us at a neutral baseline of emotions.  And studies show we perform better when we are happy and positive.  So that’s why recognition is so important in a thriving workplace.

Dos and Don’ts

Here are some guidelines to help you deliver the most effective recognition in your workplace:

1. Be as specific as possible. 

Praise a specific task or interaction when possible rather than generalizing.

2. Direct the praise to a task or effort without listing personality characteristics, especially when you’re giving negative feedback.

For example, saying “The report was creased and had ink blotches on it” is better than saying “You are sloppy.”

3. Be timely in your praise.

Don’t wait a whole year to unload praises and criticisms on an employee.  Let them know where they stand on a frequent basis, and if possible, praise them right after they do something great.

4. If you need to give negative feedback, sandwich it.

The sandwich refers to feedback that is first positive, second negative, and last positive.  It’s important not to end on a negative note.  A sandwich would go like this:

“Jim, I appreciate how hard you worked on the Cole case.  You put in a lot of hours and showed dedication.  In the restructuring section, I would have liked to see you ask for help earlier in the project.    It would have avoided the delay we have now.  The section on asset disposition was terrific; you really know your stuff in that area.”

5. Always give feedback in private.

It’s important to honor a worker’s privacy when it comes to performance appraisals and even daily or weekly feedback.  If your employee is in a cubicle or other non-private area, you may need to find a place that is more private before you give feedback.

6. Never send negative feedback via email.

It can be really hurtful and is not appropriate at any time.  If a face-to-face meeting is not possible and it just has to be handled right away, then pick up the phone.

7. Use examples.

When giving positive or negative feedback, give several examples of what’s right and wrong so the employee will learn faster and understand better what is expected.

8. Be supportive.

You are on the same team; to grow the company.  The relationship should be supportive and not adversarial.

9. Explain the impact of actions.

Help the employee understand the downstream ramifications of their actions.

10. Encourage future behavior.

Use phrases like “I’d love to see you do more of that.”

Praise your team more often, and when you do, try these tips to watch your employees shine even more.

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