INSTANT MBA: Praising Employees Might Send Mixed Messages

Today’s advice comes from Charles Duhigg, reporter for The New York Times and author at Random House, via LinkedIn

“We love to receive praise, but usually we’re not certain what message, precisely, we should take from it. On the other hand, when someone points out our flaws, we realise immediately that something needs to change.”

Duhigg says that praising employees — though appreciated — delivers a mixed, ambiguous message to employees. While they might feel good about their work in the moment, they lose sight of motivation, something that is often stimulated by failure. Nevertheless, the issue of employee management is hardly cut and dry, and individuals should take praise into their own hands. 

“There’s a twist to these studies, however: simply knowing that something is wrong isn’t enough. For the message to resonate, we need to know what to do differently … we tend to get caught up in self-congratulations, and therefore miss whatever is said next. On the other hand, criticism is fantastic at causing us to pay close attention. Therefore, reprimands have to be paired with specific next steps.”

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