Give them praise, not just a raise

A recent article in the NY Times talks about the dreaded annual review and how some organizations are straying away from this practice.  While I never found annual reviews to be of much value, I don’t see how the “conversation” practice that Adobe ascribes to will do much good either.  If the process is as loose as it sounds, they will end up wishing they had done much more when a tough challenge comes into play.

My post today is focused more on feedback and the least used ingredient to create success in the workplace, praise.  Too often we as managers don’t do a very good job pointing out what people do right, especially while they are doing it.  We are much quicker to point out what they do wrong.

Giving praise is vital for success in the workplace.  This 2001 article in the NY Times talks about the value of praise and even goes further to describe some of the specifics in getting it right.  The key aspects involve the quality and quantity of the praise, but more importantly, being specific in how you give the praise.  I would add as well that there are two other factors to be considered, with one being the timeliness of the praise and also that power of praising in front of others.  You will never understand the power of praise in public until you are the beneficiary of such a practice.

Many managers feel that workers should know they are doing a good job by hearing nothing.  I liken this treatment to what I refer to as “mushroom treatment”.  When I use this phrase among groups there is a puzzled look at first until I explain what the mushroom treatment means.  Mushrooms, like any fungus, thrive in an environment where they are kept in the dark and are fed fecal matter (crap) in order to grow.  Many of us have tried to thrive in workplaces with managers (not leaders) who practice the mushroom treatment.  Most people are not fungi, but I know a few who could come close.  Employees need more than pay and benefit enhancements to be successful in the workplace.  They need praise and even discipline, yes discipline, to thrive and be successful.  More appropriately, they need feedback.

There was a commercial when I was younger that touted a certain breakfast cereal, Wheaties, as the breakfast of champions.  I would counter that feedback is the real breakfast of champions.  Here is how I would serve feedback for a well rounded employee:

  • Specific-tell the employee what happened, good or bad, in as specific and detailed manner as possible; don’t leave them guessing
  • Behavior-describe what you saw and the behaviors of the employee and those who were affected; don’t sugar coat this
  • Impact-give detail about how this behavior, this action, affected those present and their work; again, don’t pull any punches

I learned this methodology; Situation-Behavior-Impact at one of the many workshops I have attended at the Center for Creative leadership (CCL).  I have been fortunate, no blessed, to have come into contact with CCL early in my career and I still find them to be a trusted partner when it comes to working with others and understanding human behavior and the workplace.

So there you have it, give them praise, not just a raise.  Even better, give them feedback, not the mushroom treatment.

If you want to have more fun guys in the workplace, don’t treat them as fungi.  (sorry about the bad pun)