June 20, 2013
Most of us enjoy knowing that those we report to value the work that we do. It makes us feel worthwhile and respected. And because we all have different personalities, some of us may need to hear these words of appreciation more often than others. However, if the only time employees hear they are doing a good job is during their annual performance reviews, it’s a safe bet morale isn’t everything it could be. So step one for any manager who wants to motivate his or her employees to operate at peak performance, is to make it a habit to praise them whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Be aware, though, that showing appreciation effectively requires more than the occasional pat on the back while saying “Good job!” Behavioral specialists point to research that indicates that most of us aren’t motivated by general phrases like “Good job.” Why? Because we really aren’t sure precisely what you’re referring to. It may feel good to hear these words, but they don’t make clear what, specifically, we did well. Therefore we have no idea of what behavior we should repeat.
For example, an employee who always arrives on time or even a little early for a shift should be periodically told how much you appreciate his or her dedication and dependability. What you say should sound something like this: “You don’t know how much I appreciate the fact that you’re always on time and ready to work. You set a great example for everyone.” Now the employee not only knows you like this action, but he or she is motivated to repeat the behavior because you’ve made it clear it’s important and appreciated.
In the same way, an employee who takes the time to keep up on new techniques and technologies should be encouraged with a specific statement like this: “I know you put a great deal of time into staying on top of new production concepts. I really appreciate that we can count on you to help keep us current.”
Recognizing and complimenting good employee behavior can go a long way toward getting the most out of your team. But make sure the praise is specific, not generic. Then your people will understand the behaviors you appreciate and will be motivated to repeat them.