Many managers are like the individual who, when their partner complains that they don’t tell them they love them anymore, responds with, “I said I love you when we first got together and I’ll let you know if anything changes.” Similarly, many managers act as if hiring an employee is recognition enough, and they will let the employee know if anything changes – no news is good news.
Despite the fact that no news is often good news, I can guarantee that most managers want to be valued and appreciated by their superiors. There seems to be a fear in management that “excessive” recognition will dilute praise, cheapen it, and reduce future motivation for outstanding performance. This is simply not true, and the research indicates otherwise.
Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman in the 2013 Harvard Business Review state, “Only positive feedback can motivate people to continue doing what they’re doing well, and do it with more vigor, determination, and creativity.”
The mere acknowledgment of good performance increases the probability of good performance in the future. And giving specific feedback – telling the person exactly what you liked about what they did and why you liked it, dramatically increases the likelihood of that level of performance occurring again.
We should feel free to offer validation, and here are some reasons why:
• It means something good has occurred. Your employee has done something well or demonstrated a behaviour you want to reinforce, both of which contribute positively to the workplace.
• We know our employees and our co-workers like it – it feels good and contributes to happiness and satisfaction in the workplace. If you doubt this, do a quick informal survey.
• Lastly, it shows that you are a vigilant leader – that you notice what is happening with your staff and demonstrate confidence because you respond to your observations.
Here are four behaviours to you will want to recognize, affirm, and reinforce:
1. Sense of meaningfulness.
This refers to the meaningfulness or importance of the purpose an employee is trying to fulfill. You note that an employee has seen an opportunity to accomplish something that is of real value — something that matters in the larger scheme of things.
2. Sense of choice.
These are behaviours where the protocol or steps of a process are followed as expected and outlined in a very precise and careful manner. You note that an employee has chosen a series of steps or procedures that are efficient and effective and have led to the successful completion of a task, or made significant progress towards completion.
3. Sense of competence.
You see an employee is doing excellent, high quality work. They deliver more than was expected. They may have even demonstrated creativity and artistry in their work. This is the above and beyond kind of work you want to ensure you recognize.
4. Sense of progress.
You are encouraged that your employee’s efforts are really accomplishing something despite barriers or obstacles. They are demonstrating persistence and determination, and are working hard despite the difficulty of the present situation.
Clifford Nass in the book, The Man Who Lied to His Laptop, goes so far as to say, “Don’t hesitate to praise, even if you are not sure the praise is accurate. Receivers of the praise will feel great and you will seem thoughtful and intelligent for noticing their marvelous qualities — whether they exist or not.” I am not saying we should walk around offering praise where it is not due, I am simply pointing out that people like it! And when we see attitudes and actions that are praise worthy, we should not keep this thought to ourselves. We are wise to verbalize our thought and offer words of validation and praise.