Marie’s Musings…

Employee Motivation

Are you one who simply criticizes or one who tries to promote a positive change in behavior?

I’d like to think that the people I work with adore supporting me; and I work at being a good communicator when it comes to letting them know if their work is ‘acceptable’ or ‘outstanding.’ I strive for ‘outstanding’ and find that often times ‘acceptable’ gets the job done just fine (more on this issue another time). Regardless, I am very clear with them about what I like, what my expectations are and if we need to revisit work that’s been performed for me. Have I always been a good communicator? No—it’s a skill that’s learned with consistent practice and an awareness of what moves your business forward the best. Before I became aware of my leadership style, I tried to be good friends with all my employees and found that giving honest feedback was difficult. Through the years, I’ve strived to focus on the results that I want and give twice as much positive feedback compared to corrective feedback. Seems to be working…

Employee Motivation – “Job Well Done”

When was the last time you praised your employees or contractors? Hopefully, you’ve developed the good habit of frequently praising your team members, and if you haven’t, it’s time to start. Most of us do not get enough praise, so there’s a strong likelihood there’s room for improvement when it comes to recognition of a job well done in just about every workplace. Here are some tips on how to praise more and help your workers flourish.

A Bias for Negativity and Criticism

Our brains are designed by evolution to feel the emotions from negative interactions including criticism and especially threats in an exaggerated fashion when compared to feeling the emotions from positive interactions. When we spotted a saber-toothed tiger, the brain that noticed and overreacted to the tiger by running away was rewarded with surviving.

That evolutionary trait doesn’t translate very well in our work environment. It takes a larger quantity of positive interactions versus negative interactions to just keep us at a neutral baseline of emotions. And studies show we perform better when we are happy and positive. So that’s why recognition is so important in a thriving workplace.


Here are some ideas to help you deliver the most effective recognition corrections in your workplace:

1. Be as specific as possible whether you are correcting or praising.

Focus on the specific task or interaction when discussing the employees’ actions.  Be sure not to generalize.

2. Direct the praise or criticism to a specific task, effort or behavior without listing personality characteristics.  I always try to focus on the specific behavior that I like or dislike. (Yes, it works with my husband, too).

For example, saying “The report was creased and had ink blotches on it” is better than saying “you are sloppy.”

3. Be timely in your praise and your criticism.

Don’t wait a whole year to unload praises and criticisms on an employee. Let them know on a frequent basis where they stand, and if possible, praise them right after they do something great.  Regular praise lets your employees and team members know that they are appreciated.

4. Always give negative feedback in private and in person.

There is a common saying “Praise in public, criticize in private.”  It’s important to honor a worker’s privacy when it comes to performance appraisals and even daily or weekly feedback. If your employee is in a cubicle or other public area, you may need to find a place that is more private before you give negative feedback.

5. Never send negative feedback via email.

It can be really hurtful and is not appropriate at any time. If a face-to-face meeting is not possible and it just has to be handled right away, then pick up the phone.  Even my normal, neutral emails have gotten misconstrued—it’s impossible to predict how the reader will interpret the written words.

6. Use examples.

When giving positive or negative feedback, give several examples of what’s right and wrong so the employee will learn faster and understand better what is expected.

7. Be supportive.

You are on the same team and have the same goal to grow the company. The relationship should be supportive and not adversarial.  Your team should love coming to work and you should love having them there.  If it’s not a mutually beneficial relationship, it’s time to make some changes.

8. Explain the impact of actions.

Help the employee understand the downstream ramifications of their actions. Sometimes employees only understand their tiny little portion of the company.  I believe in holding staff meetings to share the big picture and to work out any interpersonal kinks.  I find that it brings my team members closer in understanding where we are heading and the growth that we want to achieve.

Using phrases like “I’d love to see you do more of that” will encourage the future behavior you are looking for; AND, you’ve generated loyalty and appreciation from your team members.  Be sure to praise your team more often, and when you do, try these tips and watch your employees shine and your business continue to grow!