Motivating and communicating

Six guidelines for delivering praise effectively


Praising employees is a delicate business.  Some experts advise you to praise every employee every day, while others argue that daily praise will undermine your management efforts. 

Here are some issues to keep in mind when you praise:

  • You may be subtly sabotaging employees' development. If employees become too dependent on your praise, they may stop taking risks and thinking for themselves, and start doing only what they know will earn them a compliment. Concentrate instead on sharing information about your employees' efforts to help them grow more independent.
  • Are you listening as well as talking?  Employees may have important things to tell you about their work, but if their only contact with you is the five minutes a day you spend praising them about something or other, you may never hear what they have to tell you. Instead of simply telling employees what a good job they're doing, take some time to ask them how they've succeeded in the job they're doing.
  • Consistency is difficult. You can't see what every employee does every moment of the day.  You may be praising something insignificant just because it caught your attention. If the employee realizes that your praise is irrelevant to his or her real efforts, cynicism may set in.  Instead, explain to employees how their positive contributions affect the organization, and let them take pride in themselves without waiting for praise from you.
  • Are you and the organization sending mixed messages?  Employees who are stressed because they've got too much work and too little support won't suddenly feel better just because you spend five minutes a day praising them.  Be honest with your people about the challenges facing all of you.
  • Don't force it.  If your attempts to praise are obviously just lip service, employees will feel manipulated and insulted.  Give praise when it's deserved and appropriate, but don't look for excuses to hand it out. Your employees will recognize what you're doing.
  • Is it personal?  One size doesn't fit all when it comes to praise.  If you use the same words and rewards to praise everyone, some people will feel that you're just repeating phrases you read in a management book.  Get to know your people so you can honestly deliver the kind of praise they'll respond to.

Jules Ciotta is president of Motivation Communications Associates. He can be reached at (770) 457-4100 or



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