I still remember my daughter’s very first job. She was sixteen years old, and one day she came home from work very excited. Her boss had told her she was one of his best employees. It was a small place, so it wasn’t like there were a thousand people who worked there. At the same time, though, it was really uplifting for her to be told. She was genuinely enthused by his comment.
“Nice job! Good work!” Do you remember the first time you heard those words, or something similar, said to you? Probably most of us don’t recall the very first time, but we can remember the impact they had at some point. A parent praising a job done well. A teacher extolling an excellent test result or homework assignment. A coach commending us because of a great game. An employer or supervisor congratulating for a stellar performance. Those are great and memorable moments. Most people can recall in vivid detail an event—or several—where such praise was given in their lives.
Why do we remember those events? Because on the inside, we all crave to be noticed and admired. And when it happens, it’s an exciting time.
Yet, let’s be honest. Praise coming from us to others is often rare. Not non-existent, mind you, just rare. It does not happen nearly enough.
Author Cecil G. Osborne said, “Perhaps once in a hundred years a person may be ruined by excessive praise, but surely once every minute someone dies inside for lack of it.” I think Osborne is right.
We’ve all met the young child who is craving some form of praise from her parents, but it never comes. She lies awake at night wondering if she really is a total failure because her parents never commend her. Or the teen who finds applause among his peers that he never knew at home. The desire to be praised is so strong that he abandons his family and becomes part of a gang, all because his efforts are admired there. Sad but true stories like these happen every day.
So what does all this have to do with you and your company? Simple. Those people—and others who have just as strong of a need for praise—now work for you. They come in and do their job, but they rarely hear congratulatory words about that job.
What would happen if they your employees were to hear you and others pay tribute to their work? Would it make a difference, do you suppose, if they regularly received praise?
“John, I really appreciate the time you spent on that report. It was very thorough.”
“Karen, thanks so much for doing such a good job on the accounting week after week. I really appreciate the effort you put into your work.”
Would people who regularly received such affirmation be more loyal and do an even better job? (I hope you realize that it was just a rhetorical question.) Of course they would!
Research shows that when employees are appreciated for what they do, it is as important, if not more important, than financial compensation. Praising your employees and establishing a culture where good performance is recognized will help you keep and add good employees to your team. Over time, this will give you a sustainable competitive advantage.
There’s the rub, though. If you don’t intentionally make a point to recognize and affirm good work, it won’t happen. If you don’t give it deliberate forethought, you likely won’t do it.
So I challenge you to make a point this week—even today—to catch someone doing something right and commend him or her for it. Seek out the good work and praise the worker. They’ll be glad you did, and you and your company will ultimately benefit from it.
Tom Kraeuter for Bill Bayer