There’s no secret that recognition in the workplace is a prime motivator and tons of companies have implemented incentive programs that are designed to provide benefits for those employees that perform well. However, the simple truth is that even with all of these programs, the overall cumulative effect has not been very productive. A recent study completed by the Dale Carnegie organization found that only 29% of employees were fully engaged in their work, with 26% being fully disengaged and the rest falling in between the two extremes. The single problem with all of these programs is that they fail to utilize the psychological benefits of praise.
For most employees, their level of being engaged does not correlate with what they receive from these programs, but rather with the relationship they have with their direct supervisor. This is what the person experiences on a day-to-day basis and if the relationship is not good, then extra perks and recognition from higher up on the ladder will do little to increase how engaged a person is at work. While the programs may provide some influence, what really matters is that the employee is receiving praise from their supervisor, not from the company at large.
One of the main psychological benefits of praise from a direct supervisor is how it changes both the mental outlook of the employee as well as the actual environment where the work is being done. Receiving praise that has been earned makes a person feel good and shows that their efforts are not going unnoticed. If they feel good, the normal reaction is to be more productive, thus generating more praise. When this effect is seen across a team of employees, the entire mood of a typical working day will be lifted and they team will be both more positive and more productive.
With so many psychological benefits being attributed to praise, it’s surprising that many managers and supervisors are not using it more often. The price of praise is literally free, thus making it more effective and cheaper than all of the complicated programs that reward employees with money or other benefits. In addition, it takes very little effort to practice. A quick thanks for a job well done or writing a positive review of a completed project will usually take little more than a few minutes and the after effects will last for quite some time. This type of verbal praise works well both in public and private situations. While the public version will add to the employee’s feeling of being recognized, private praise will strengthen the connection between the employee and their direct supervisor.
Of course, praise should only be given when an employee has earned it. Receiving unearned praise not only feels empty, but can also be damaging to the supervisor’s credibility and seen as a psychological trick rather than a genuine recognition of a job well done. Still, a manager should look for more opportunities when work is deserving of praise to gain the most psychological benefits from their employees.
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