A “Well Done” Shouldn’t Be Rare

By Malcolm Fleschner

Most managers are familiar with the so-called carrot-and-stick approach to motivation. Do something wrong and the boss hits you with a stick. Do something right and you still get hit, but this time it will be with a harmless carrot. OK, maybe that’s not exactly how it’s supposed to work, but the point is many of today’s managers have forgotten that the carrot is supposed to be a reward, a way of saying thank you for a job well done. Yet as authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton point out, positive recognition has become all too rare in the modern American workplace. In The 24 Carrot Manager (Gibbs Smith, 2002), Gostick and Elton share the following responses to nine of the most common excuses bosses typically offer for neglecting their praise-giving duties.

1. I don’t want to get too familiar with my employees.
Being appreciative of your team members’ efforts will not make the task more difficult when you have to dispense discipline. People don’t work harder for bosses who are distant and aloof. In fact, research has shown that people work best for managers who genuinely care about their employees.

2. What’s in it for me?
Not sold on the value of recognizing performance and effort? Results of the largest-ever study on workplace satisfaction showed that recognition and rewards are fundamental elements of high-performing work teams with low turnover. The truth is that it’s nearly impossible to get top results without consistent, meaningful recognition.

3. I don’t have time.
Yes, you’re busy. All managers are. But recognition doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Do a little research and you can make regular, sincere recognition part of your job without sacrificing much time at all.

4. I don’t want to play favorites.
This attitude leads to the practice of rewarding entire departments, regardless of individual member’s contributions. As a result you wind up alienating the true high performers and reinforcing the behavior of average and poor performers. If you want to include everyone in a recognition program, make it a point to recognize a different person each week at the staff meeting and make sure each thank you is specific to what that individual has done for the organization.

5. They’ll be suspicious of my motives.
If your employees suspect that your praise is less than sincere, then it probably is. To work effectively, recognition must be timely and supported by pertinent stories about the behavior being recognized. If there are members of your team who cannot be convinced that you sincerely appreciate their efforts, maybe they should take their efforts elsewhere.

6. The activity will lose meaning.
Recognition is a lot like saying to a spouse: I love you.. There’s really no way to overdo it. Most employees will never tire of hearing a sincere thank you from the boss.

7. Other managers aren’t doing it.
Maybe so, but what an opportunity for you to blaze a new path and build something new and beneficial within the organization!

8. They’ll ask for more money.
Actually, the opposite is true. Studies show that satisfied, appreciated employees tend to ask for more money less frequently.

9. They’ll expect more recognition.
They sure will. Employees will eat it up, devouring your carrots of recognition as fast as you can dole them out. In return you’ll see ever better results from them. Why was this a problem again?