Praise Makes a Difference
By Bill Durr
Posted in Customer Engagement
Gallup, Inc. research has concluded that a lack of recognition or praise for doing good work is responsible for a 10 to 20 percent difference in revenue and productivity. What's more, employees who report that they're not adequately recognized at work are three times more likely to say they'll leave in the next year. And, of course, attrition costs money and drags on overall productivity.
In a Harvard Business Review blog post by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman published in March of 2013, the authors examined the effectiveness of 60 leadership teams. Effectiveness was measured according to several criteria, including feedback ratings of the team members.
The factor that made the greatest difference between the most successful and least successful teams was the ratio of positive comments to negative ones. Top-performing teams gave each other more than five positive comments for every criticism, while the lowest-performing teams gave each other three negative comments for every positive one. The beatings will continue until the attitudes improve, I guess.
Research by John Gottman, who studies relationships, also found the "magic ratio" to be 5 to 1. The reason why so many additional positive comments are needed for each negative one is important: People are conditioned emotionally to absorb the negative more deeply than the positive.
A leader who is known for following through with encouragement and praise can expect to see better results than the one who has a reputation for walking away after assigning a task. Offering timely and specific praise as progress is made toward the goal will likely help improve performance at every stage.
If praise is such a valuable tool, why isn't it more common? In many cases, it can be traced back to a performance review system that forces managers to grade employees based on a normal distribution curve. In some cases, leaders may feel forced to rate some performers low, and leaders who tend to rate everyone high can potentially be seen as a bit soft.
Then there is the matter of true versus false praise. Many of us have experienced false praise. Once, I had a regional boss who regularly swooped into the branches under his purview, saying hello, shaking hands and making occasional comments. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Great job, Tiger.” Tiger? And then it struck me; he didn’t know—or couldn’t remember—my name. The comment was a throwaway line, and I was gone in less than six months.
What constitutes true praise? Consider these:
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