You may compliment when you’re in a good mood, to grease the skids before you criticize, or when you happen to think of it. Those are not necessarily the best times. Consider these factors:
What comes next? Praise will backfire if you follow up by asking the employee to improve in another area. Don’t believe the tired advice that you should sandwich criticism with praise to make it more palatable. People see right through that and may question your sincerity.
The truth is, your employees will dwell on the negative. Your praise carries far more impact if it stands alone.
Who’s listening? Maybe you’ve heard you should praise sooner rather than later. That’s mostly true. But it pays to withhold praise until the right moment if you want to maximize its power as a motivational tool.
Examples: You wait to salute an employee’s initiative until a staff meeting. Or you arrange to praise a worker in front of the CEO.
Time for a boost? Praising an employee who’s already on a high can’t hurt, but it may not sink in. Ideally, the time to praise someone is when you want to provide encouragement in the face of hardship.
A marketing exec tells us that she waited a few days to praise one of her sales managers for his team’s strong monthly production. Why? She knew his job had its disappointments, and after he lost a big account she wanted to cheer him up by communicating her appreciation.