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In Praise of Praise

October 13, 2011

When was the last time someone said ‘you’ve done a great job’? I hope it wasn’t too long ago, because there’s nothing as motivating or satisfying as praise.

And there’s nothing as soul-destroying as toiling away, doing great work and not getting recognised for it.

I was trained by a manager from the old-school. Her approach was ‘I’ll tell you if you’re doing something wrong’. Which didn’t mean she was cold or unfeeling – it just didn’t occur her to celebrate my wins. We came to an agreement in the end, that I’d point out when I got a good result, and she would agree. It was a half-joking kind of thing, but it was better than nothing at all.

There’s a school of thought that says Gen Y want too much feedback and praise; I don’t think you can have too much of either.

I’m not Gen Y myself, but I like getting a pat on the back, or be told I’m on the right track. Everybody does. The generational argument is a furphy, made up by grumpy baby boomers who are uncomfortable expressing emotions.

This week my boss (from said grumpy boomer cohort) had received a compliment about me and a colleague, directly from a client. But the only way he could communicate was in a slightly ironic, slightly deprecating way.

Unfortunately (for him), I was a crazy hormonal bitch that day, and I called him out for it. ‘If you have something nice to say, just bloody say it’ was the gist of my outburst.

If you work in an environment where praise is a rare commodity, maybe it’s up to you to lead the charge. Point out and celebrate your colleagues’ wins, or take a moment at the end of the week to talk about what you did.

I run a session called The Week that Was, where we talk about a highlight, a challenge, someone that warmed your heart and someone that pissed you off (that last one is a chance to vent). It’s a perfect opportunity to bask in a little glory, and possibly shine some on another person.

If none of that works, then maybe it’s time to move on. Recognition is like sunlight – without it, it’s hard to grow. And of course, share some around and see if it makes your workplace just that little bit brighter.

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