There are a few studies making the rounds
that suggest too much praise can be harmful to
Most of this research centers on early childhood development but it got me
wondering if there are any lessons here to be learned in the working world?
There is plenty of evidence that praise from peers and managers can
turbocharge engagement in the workplace. I’ve also cautioned
employees with praise can
In order to be effective your recognition efforts must be sincere and
One of the things that stands out to me from the early childhood research
is that praise seems to be most effective when it focuses on the process
rather than the person. “Wow, you really put a lot of effort into that
presentation,” recognizes a person’s intentions and accomplishments. This
kind of praise communicates to people that their hard work was noticed.
Focusing praise instead on the person - for instance saying “you’re a good
presenter,” doesn’t really recognize a person’s effort or motivation. This
type of praise tends to suggest to people that their efforts don’t
necessarily matter as much as natural ability. This sends the signal that
they are naturally good no matter how much or how little effort went into
Recognition mistakes to avoid:
- Trying to use praise to “fix” poor performance can breed resentment
Be candid when an employee isn’t meeting expectations so that your praise
is meaningful when he does hit the mark.
- Recognizing only success. Employees who are praised for good
decision-making turn out to be more likely to make bad
Be mindful to also recognize employees for how they recover from missteps.
- Using praise only to get results. Praise, when it appears to the
“praisee” as a means to an end, can feel like a form of
Here I like to make the distinction that recognition and acknowledgement
can be more effective than a gold star or verbal reward.
Make no mistake, praise can be a powerful tool. Just be sure to apply it
thoughtfully and meaningfully.
[image: Improve recognition in your organization