Offering praise to employees can be tricky business for managers.
One of the purposes of offering praise, beyond recognizing a job well done, is to motivate your employees. Daniel Pink has done a wonderful job of summarizing the work of many experts as it pertains to creating intrinsic motivation. That is, people doing things well because it feels right to them and they want to do it.
This is the opposite of “carrot and stick”, “do it or else”, “do this and get a reward”, kinds of motivation. Intrinsically motivated people are happier in their work and perform better in almost every type of work.
On the subject of offering praise Pink has summarized the best tips for making sure you are promoting intrinsic motivation:
Praise effort and strategy, not intelligence. People who are praised for “being smart” often believe that every encounter is a test of whether they really are. So to avoid looking dumb, they resist new challenges and choose the easiest path. By contrast, people who understand that effort and hard work lead to mastery and growth are more willing to take on new, difficult tasks.
Make praise specific. Give people useful information about their performance. Instead of bathing them in generalities, tell them specifically what they’ve done that’s noteworthy.
Praise in private. Praise is feedback, not an awkward ceremony. That’s why it’s often best to offer it one-on-one, in private.
Offer praise only when there’s a good reason for it. Don’t kid a kidder. People can see right through fake praise in a nanosecond. Be sincere, or keep quiet. If you overpraise, people regard it as dishonest and unearned. Plus, overpraising becomes another “if-then” reward that makes earning praise, rather than moving towards mastery of the work, the objective.