Why are managers and supervisors so stingy with praise?
Ken Blanchard has a favorite question he likes to ask audiences whenever he is teaching about the power of recognition. He asks, “How many of you receive too much praise at work?” It’s a bit of a trick question because Ken knows after asking hundreds of audiences, that very few people ever raise their hands. In fact, most people go on to say that the only time they ever get feedback from their manager is when they do something wrong. For these people, the best they can hope for is, “no news is good news.”
Why are managers and supervisors so stingy with their recognition? Especially when we all know how important it is to be appreciated. As William James, one of the pioneers of modern psychology said, “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.”
My guess is that most managers don’t realize how little praise they give employees—or more importantly, what their praise-to-criticism ratio is.
John Gottman, a Harvard psychologist who focuses on marital relations, is famous for identifying that to maintain a healthy relationship, it is important to have a praise-criticism ratio of at least 5:1. That means five positive mentions for every negative.
How are you doing with your level of praise in the workplace? If you’re out of practice, here are a couple of tips.
Be timely. Here’s one time when it is okay for a manager to “shoot from the hip.” As soon as you notice someone doing something worth mentioning, take the next step and actually call them out for it.
Be authentic. Don’t go overboard, just honestly express your feelings. You are not trying to “do” something, or manipulate the person or experience. Instead, you are just showing that you noticed and appreciate what they are doing.
Be frequent. Don’t worry that all this praising will go to their head—or that they will feel like you are overdoing it. Remember Ken Blanchard’s experience asking thousands of people his favorite question. No one has ever said they were praised too much and they just wish their boss would cut it out. That’s not to say that it won’t seem like a lot of praising in your mind. But remember the 5:1 ratio necessary for a healthy, positive relationship.
Don’t be stingy
Everyone loves to be recognized and appreciated for who they are and the good work they do. (Don’t you?) As long as it is honest and from the heart (and free of any ulterior motives) you really can’t overdo it.
Try it this week—and as an added bonus, I think you’ll find that giving others praise, recognition, and appreciation will make you feel better too!