Is Your Praising Style Helping or Hurting Your Team Members?

BY Kathy Crosett
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You’ve heard this one before: it’s important to praise employees for a job well done. In fact, positive reinforcement does much more to motivate a team member than negative reinforcement.

It turns out that the type of praise managers give to employees also makes a difference. Justin Bariso thinks back through his own experiences when he explains the type of praise that prompted him to do a better job. You can do the same thing. And then, you can apply those lessons to your own management process.

Maybe a coach told you that you ran a fantastic race. Or a teacher may have told you that you gave an outstanding presentation on the sociability of ants. If you had a typical response to this praise, you tried harder.

Psychologists have shown that praising children for a specific accomplishment yields rewards. In controlled studies, young “participants who were praised specifically performed better at future tasks than their counterparts.” This praise and motivation system can work for you as a manager, too.

You could improve the way you motivate team members in two ways. First, consider praising each employee regularly for a specific achievement. Review their work activities and call out a detailed task. Perhaps they saved the company money by negotiating a better deal with a vendor. Let them know you noticed. This kind of praise will drive the employee to continue trying to achieve on that front.

Second, when you must talk with an employee about areas for improvement, consider ‘sandwiching’ the bad news. For example, start the conversation by praising the way they handled a vendor. Then explain what should change. Maybe the employee was not authorized to sign a contract with a coffee service without your approval. Explain the process you expect them to follow in the future. Then, ask about the next big project they’re working on. Listen closely. Tell the employee you believe they'll be able to succeed in the same way they did with one of their recently completed projects.

In the workplace, it’s easy to overlook team members who are consistently do a great job. Don’t let the problems you’re constantly dealing with take up all your time. Make it a habit to notice what each team member is excelling at and praise them. You’ll earn their trust and they’ll be motivated to keep up the good work.