6 reasons why I don’t praise my employees

The research is clear: Praise is good for the bottom line.

So why are so many new and experienced leaders not making praise a priority? Some might think annual performance reviews are the only time for it. Others may worry that it will seem unprofessional or that people will get overconfident and complacent. It isn’t and they won’t.

And then there are those who get caught up in these poor excuses:

“I’m too busy.”
You’re not. Praise doesn’t have to be a big production, but it is a big deal to the receiver. And it can and should take place in the regular interactions you have with people. Look for something to praise in every employee each week. Put it on your to-do list if that will help.

“Someone else is taking care of it.”
Never make that assumption, because “someone else” might be assuming you are doing it. In fact, take it upon yourself to make sure you’re regularly informing everyone else, in particular, senior management, about an individual’s accomplishments and outstanding performance. (First, check with your manager to find out how she prefers to be informed.)

“They know they’re appreciated.”
They really don’t know unless you tell them. And people need to hear from you when they might be feeling praise isn’t warranted. It’s just as important to offer appropriate praise even when someone has delivered mixed or disappointing results on an assignment. Of course, this is also an opportunity to coach the individual for improvement. But chances are the person tried hard. Very hard. Her effort represents an opportunity for you to deliver authentic praise in a difficult situation.

“If it was important to them, they’d say something.”
Most people won’t directly ask or hint for your kudos. Don’t punish shy employees by ignoring their efforts. Try this: find out how individuals prefer to be recognized. Some don’t like being the center of attention in meetings or large office communications; some people prefer individual conversations to group emails.

“I have more important things to worry about.”
You must make praise important to yourself because it certainly is to your employees. You probably already make it a priority to get to know how people approach their work and why others like working with them. Use these details to deliver sincere, specific compliments for them. But don’t praise just the results: you’ll miss mentioning the ­valuable work that was done to achieve them. Keep this three things in the front of mind when you recognize ­others: their efforts, their contributions, and their results.

“If I praise too much, they’ll want raises.”
If you fear heaps of praise will cause workers to clamor for a raise, beware, because the opposite may happen. Employees may demand more money to make up for the lack of praise and recognition. Keep in mind too that people who receive regular recognition and praise for their good work increase individual productivity, receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers, have better safety records and fewer accidents, and are more likely to stay with their company.

Show You Care

Some managers equate praise with a quick, encouraging comment (“Great job,” “Thanks for your effort”). Yet that’s only one of many options you can use to convey employee appreciation. It’s better to choose from a range of approaches to express admiration or enthusiasm for a team member’s excellent performance. Here are some different ways you can demonstrate your appreciation for your employee:

  • Targeted compliments. Some people value specific, timely praise. Signaling that you’re aware of their extra effort or sacrifice heightens their allegiance to you.
  • Taking the time to listen. For employees who place less importance on receiving praise, dishing out compliments isn’t especially motivating. Instead, they may crave more of your time. Setting aside 15 minutes to meet with a top performer can provide a lasting im­­pact. Use that time to spur that person to open up, offer ideas and share concerns.
  • Spring into action. Because action speaks louder than words for many people, you’ll motivate certain personalities by making supportive moves that resonate with them. Examples include hiring extra help to alleviate their heavy workload, giving them a half-day off or enrolling them in a training program to prime them for a promotion.
  • Give gifts. Presenting something of tangible value to a deserving star often works wonders.
  • Try a high-five or fist bump. Appropriate physical touch can serve as its own language of appreciation. High-fives, fist bumps or a congratulatory handshake can help employees feel like star athletes. Avoid anything that’s even remotely sexualized or unwanted.
  • Send handwritten thank-you notes. On paper. Yes! They work! Now more than ever.

Lastly, don’t forget about virtual team members! Even though they’re out of sight, you can foster their engagement with the team when you let them know they are valuable contributors, too.