What happens when you forget to consistently recognize the hard work of your employees? You might find that the “hard” work turns into the bare minimum. It took my 5 year-old daughter to remind me of this simple truth.
My daughter is currently in kindergarten and has been doing great academically ever since the school year started. However, in the past few months, she’s exhibited some behavior problems when it comes to following the teacher’s instructions or interacting with other students. My wife and I tried the typical punishments if she had a bad day: time outs, writing sentences, early bedtime, etc… These punishments previously worked in the past, but lately, it didn’t seem to matter.
After a few different conversations with her teacher, we decided to try a 5-star system. Her school day would be broken into 5 different time slots, and if she behaved like she was supposed to during that time slot, she would get a star. Getting 5 stars meant she had an excellent day. After starting this system, a lot of her behavior problems disappeared.
It hit me that it was my own fault that these behavior problems developed, because I wasn’t recognizing her good behavior. I’ve always known that kids crave attention and they’ll do anything to get it. If they cannot get attention by doing well, they’ll misbehave. One way or the other, they want your eyes on them. However, I was not doing my part. I did not fuel her good behavior by constantly praising her when she had good days.
Praising and recognition is not just for kids. It matters to adults, as well, especially in the work environment. If you have an employee that spends a lot of time and effort working on a particular project or large task, and you don’t praise them for that hard work, do you think they’ll put as much effort into a similar project or task in the future?…Probably not. They’ll likely do the necessary amount of work to finish the job, but the quality may be sub-standard.
When it comes to praising and recognition, you need to remember the following rules:
- Don’t under-praise: This was my own problem at home with my daughter. In a sense, it’s actually a form of neglect. If you don’t praise people for their efforts, you’ll create the “Office Space” environment where people do just enough not to get fired. Don’t cut off the recognition supply!
- Don’t over-praise: Yes, it is possible to over-praise someone. If you tell someone “Great job!” and then 5-minute later, come back and say “Great job!” for the same completed work, your feedback will likely be received as being fake. That will also create some distrust between you and that individual.
- Recognize the masses: Every group or team has their top performers. However, in a lot of the companies I’ve worked at in the past, it was only the top performers who received the praisings. You need to make sure everyone gets recognition for a job well done.
- It’s not just for your direct reports: Praising and recognition are for everyone! Your peers will feed off of your recognition of them. Alternatively, perhaps you’re not a leader, but instead an individual contributor. Even though you don’t have that position power, praising your team members build relationships and better work quality.
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.
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