The Best Way to Reward Employees

When was the last time you heard anything good from your boss?

Whenever I coach an employee, one of the first questions I ask is “When was the last time your boss caught you doing something right?”

Most of the time, the employee can’t remember. And they usually add… “but I sure remember when I got criticized.”

Just yesterday, I asked this question to a bright, young woman working for a difficult boss. She had just finished telling me about her frustrations at work and her stressful relationship with her boss. No surprise, she provided me with an “I can’t remember” type response to the praise question. It also came as no surprise that amidst her other frustrations of doing unmeaningful work in a negative environment, she’ll be seeking other employment soon. One thing that I advised her on is to try to assess any prospective new boss as a positive mentor –  as a person is capable of looking for, saying, and doing positive things.

In my years of consulting, not hearing positive things from your boss or leader is a consistently pervasive problem. Conversely, the leaders who stand out are almost always able to build up the positives in their workers by focusing on the good more than the negative. Criticism shuts you down. Praise opens you up.

I once worked for a supervisor who was extremely critical of pretty much everything I said and did at work. He hated my written reports that were typically returned to me covered in a sea of red corrections. I was forced to rewrite each report at least twice. My self-confidence in my work nose-dived. I think he believed that his criticism was helping me develop. I can still remember the joy and relief I felt when he was fired and I was transferred to a different supervisor.

Finding the time on a regular basis, even every couple of weeks, to work praise into your interaction with each employee does not cost a cent. It can be the making or the breaking of your people and it’s still the best way to reward your employees on a regular basis.

Try to keep your positive words genuine. To take it up a notch, you need to do three things.

  1. Be very specific about the behavior or the result.
  2. Do it as soon as possible after the person earned it (hours, not days).
  3. Tell the person how what they did helped you, the department, or the company.

A simple and sincere thank you by word or email or even a handwritten note are all good ways of recognizing a person’s work. Acknowledge the person’s efforts. “I really appreciate how you got the project in on time.” Inform your team how deeply you appreciate their efforts or even publicize the team’s achievement throughout the whole company.

Be aware that there are some employees who do not like being praised in public. Due to either a  cultural background or personal preference such as being shy, some people are just not comfortable with public praise. A supervisor needs to get to know his employee’s preferences in this regard when deciding how to praise.  

What are some other options when “free praise” isn’t enough? By talking to your employees, you will find out what interests them and can tailor rewards accordingly. Extra time off, flexible hours, working remotely, travelling to a conference, being offered a challenging new task are all possible rewards depending on the person’s needs and what the company can allow. Choose to build a company culture of employee recognition and you will create happier, more productive people.

Try this

This coming week specifically praise at least three different team members.

Do this every week and you will be amazed at the improvement in productivity.

Need a coach to help with things like praising employees? Check out LeadingUp.

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