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How to give praise assertively at work
In human behaviour there is a strong link between praise and happiness. In childhood we use praise to identify the behaviour that leads to positive results and also what actions win favour with our parents.
As adults in an intimate relationship we may use praise to measure the effectiveness of our contributions and reinforce the feeling that we are ‘needed’. In our professional lives praise is not as necessary in fact many of my client’s state they have gone many years without receiving praise for what they do, however, genuine praise should be the cornerstone of every working environment.
When we are praised by our superiors (or colleagues) it not only validates our contribution to the set of tasks or project we are working on but it goes deeper into how we feel about others and our position within the organisation.
The really interesting thing about praise is that it benefits the ‘giver’ and the ‘receiver’. The receiver will not only feel validated but will also increase their affection for the person giving the praise. So as a manager or colleague it is in our interest to give genuine praise to those that contribute.
So if this is true then why do some of us find it difficult or awkward?.
This is likely to be stem from beliefs that people hold regarding the giving of praise and it’s outcomes, such as :
- They will think im soft if I give praise
- I don’t get praise so why should they
- If I praise them they’ll start relaxing
- They’re only doing their job
- They’ll think I want something
- People don’t learn from being told how good they are, only from where they’ve messed up
Alternatively, the reluctance to give praise may be caused from past experiences where it wasn’t well received, the giver felt uncomfortable or couldn’t find the right words. These factors are likely to produce non-assertive behaviour which will result in not giving praise or delivering praise in the following way :
Hesitantly (and less sincere): ‘ Jane, I liked that er…yeah, your report was good I thought’
Apologetically : ‘ I hope you don’t mind me saying so, but I thought you handled those questions quite well’.
Self deprecation : ‘Robert, I thought your presentation was really good. I would never be able to do anything like that’.
Grudgingly : ‘Well I suppose that wasn’t a bad effort for you’ or ‘You did it well in the end’.
Double meaning : ‘That was good Jenny, did Steve help you out with that ?’. The intention is praise but it implies that Jenny couldn’t have produced it on her own.
Gushingly : ‘Wow, that was brilliant. I thought you did an amazing job, well done you. Keep up the good work’. These comments may come over as insincere or patronizing.
Assertive and Sincere praise
Assertive behaviour involves expressing thoughts, feelings, beliefs and wants in direct, honest and appropriate ways. So here are three tips for giving praise assertively.
1. Eye contact : Maintain eye contact in a relaxed manner without looking like your embarrassed to give praise. Try not to stare and keep the praise brief and clear, avoiding extra phrases to pad it out and make it more ‘comfortable’.
2. I statements : This is not a reference to the latest product from Apple it simply means making statements such as ‘I like the report on….’; ‘I’m pleased with the way you handled that situation Michael’.
3. Be specific : People are more likely to accept your comments as sincere if they feel genuine interest from you, therefore, be specific and use phrases such as ‘I liked your presentation on……I thought the way you presented the numbers for the Miller account was really useful’.
Remember giving praise is a win-win exercise so do it often and do it assertively!.