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

the project.


Recognition mistakes to avoid:


   - Trying to use praise to “fix” poor performance can breed resentment

   and de-motivation<>.

   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