It was easy to see the smiles exponentially light up around the room as the co-workers gave each other praise for various things. Even the thickest skinned member of the team couldn’t help but smile when a co-worker thanked him for supporting her with an RFP coming due. The team of hard-nosed marketers turned into a gushy team of cheerleaders. It was a dopamine party and everyone was feeling “high.”
After the training session was over, I was chatting with the team leader and she mentioned how powerful it was to close the training by praising each other. She said she’d never seen her team so bonded and full of energy. I told her how giving appreciation releases dopamine in both the person giving the praise, as well as the person receiving it. Dopamine is the happy drug of our body. When it’s released, we feel better all over. I then suggested that she continue to build in opportunities to acknowledge each other in their daily or weekly meetings. The idea seemed to surprise her. She’d never thought about it before. She’s not alone.
Gallup research found that only 33% of workers said they’ve received praise for work they’ve done over the past seven days. The same study found that when employees don’t receive praise, they are 3x more likely to quit within the year.
But when employees do receive praise, several positive outcomes occur. Praise leads to a 10-20% increase in productivity. Project managers who freely gave out praise had teams that performed 31% better than managers who didn’t give praise. For many people, managers found that praise can be even more motivating than money!
So what are you waiting for? Give some praise to your team today, but make sure you pay attention to a few guidelines.
Specific vs General Praise
Praise that is specific can be more powerful than general praise like “you are doing good work.” But being able to remember specific praise can be hard for those who are not blessed with an elephant-like brain, like myself. My strategy is to keep ongoing notes on my team members. Throughout any given workday, I record things that my employees do. This is a private notebook that I reference back to as needed.
It turns out that the dopamine release from praise is only short lived. So the key is to create moments within your weekly schedule to allow for the team to praise each other. In our team, we have a section of our weekly meeting called “Shout-outs” where anyone can give a shout-out to someone else for something they did. An example might be, “I want to give a shout-out to Sabina who took this raw writing of mine and turned it into a well-edited piece.”
Introvert vs Extrovert
Not everyone loves praise in the same way. If you mess it up, your praise could actually do more harm than good. For example, giving praise to an extrovert in a public setting, like a meeting, is often a positive experience. Extroverts love to be praised in front of other people. Introverts are different. If they receive praise from someone publicly without prior knowledge, they might freeze up and be unsure how to react. Depending on how introverted they are, it could be a embarrassing experience, instead of a positive moment. In this case, you can message them ahead of time with the praise you plan to share publicly, so they can be prepared to accept it. You could also write them a note, or tell it to them one-on-one in person.
The release of dopamine is such a powerful reinforcer of positive behavior that you’d be foolish to ignore performing an action as simple as giving praise. Just as the team of marketers bonded over the praise, you can do the same with your team at the next meeting. The effects of this habit will last long after the meeting is over.