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Praising people - often and properly

Posted by Laura Nelde on April 18, 2017

We asked what you really want as an employee. Now we want to share our insights along with some tips and suggestions over the coming weeks.

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Everyone likes praise. And everyone in our survey rated its importance with 4 or 5 stars.

Unfortunately praise seldomly comes naturally to leaders. They have trained themselves to constantly look to optimize things and suggest improvements. While doing that, it is easy to forget to praise all the things that are going well already.

But praise is important. studies have shown for a while how much power there is within positive feedback and compliments. Not only does it spark creativity, it improves productivity, fosters engagement and increases employee retention.

Based on science

It is sometimes difficult to imagine that kind words only can lead to these benefits. But praise provides more than a vague, subjective feeling.

There is even a biological explanation for it. Praise releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, one of the “happiness hormones”, controlling the reward and pleasure centers in our brain. In studies, praise has activated the same part of our brain that money does and its effect is equal to a 1% raise in salary.

But as we also know from other happiness hormones such as serotonin which is also released when eating chocolate, the effects are not particularly stable. They drop soon again after the peak. Thus praise needs to happen frequently.

"48% state that they want to be praised more often"

So apparently, despite the importance of praise not being a new discovery, it has not arrived in everyone’s practice.

The first thing you should obviously work on: praise more often. Sincere praise is difficult to overdo for most people. Set yourself a goal to praise at least five people everyday. That might sound like a lot of work. And you will need to actively pursue that goal until it becomes a habit. But once you start getting into a routine, you will see that it pays off in the end.

And while quantity will be the first challenge for a majority, the quality of praise should not be neglected. So here is:

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  1. Be specific and immediate when you praise

Avoid general statements. They can come across as insincere and will not provide much benefit to the recipient.. And do not give praise for something two months ago, but do it at the time of the action. Praise should always be immediate.

  1. Praise the effort - not the talent

Praise should always be directed at something the recipient is in control of i.e. hard work or effort. Emphasizing a natural inclination of a person however, will not have the same impact on motivation. Make sure to not only praise the end result but include the path there. Especially if it was rocky, it should not go unnoticed.

  1. Use praise to even the future path

Be strategic with your praise to directly impact future performance. If you continuously praise milestones and progress along the way you keep up the motivation and turn the focus already to the next challenge.

  1. Never use irony or sarcasm

This seems like a no-brainer, but it is easily forgotten. Often praise is delivered in a joking way, mentioning failure that might have occurred before. But praise should never be an unintentional reminder of errors in the past or contain any “but”.

  1. How you respond to praise is important as well

It is often forgotten that if you are the recipient of a the praise you should consider a couple things as well.
Most importantly: accept the compliment. It’s meant to appreciate your strengths and not make you think about potential weaknesses. By questioning it, you belittle yourself, when you should own and recognize your achievements. Also remember, that praising someone is not easy for many people, so don’t refuse the praise you get.

 

In the next part of our series we will talk about employee satisfaction

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