Too Much Sugar Ruins the Pie
Too Much Sugar Ruins the Pie. That’s what my mama told me when she was doing her best to teach me how to cook, and although I never learned to even cook simple spaghetti really well, I can relate how that adage applies to HR and management. I’ve observed many supervisors that think they are being good managers by heaping praise on their employees. After all, everybody likes to hear they are doing a good job, and hearing it more often makes them even happier, right? Some do it genuinely, others for manipulative reasons. In both cases, over-application of praise results in it ultimately becoming meaningless. If an employee is praised for doing marginally well even on trivial tasks, then all but the shallowest worker learns that the praise is worth about as much as any other devalued currency; you couldn’t buy a sack of potatoes with it even with a wheelbarrow full. Like currency, praise needs to have a standard, and preferably a gold standard. I rarely praise, but when I do, my employees know they have done something really spectacular and they go away with a beaming smile, and tell their co-workers that Jennifer said they did something great. They are genuinely proud of it. Contrast that to the manager who always praises and the employee who walks away with a suspicious, or at best a weak forced smile. The other important thing is that you need to use real sugar. There goes the pie analogy again, but let’s continue slicing it. Employees can spot forced, or non-genuine praise fairly soon after getting to know a manager. If you give praise to further your goals (making happy employees that work hard for you) you are doing it out of a spirit of manipulation. This will shine through. You need to drop all thoughts of using praise as a tool, set your standard, and dish it out as it is genuinely deserved. For one, you will be seen as someone who is genuine and not manipulative, and two, you actually will be so. That’s good for management, and it’s also great when you look in the mirror at night before you go to bed. So managers, use real sugar, but don’t use too much. You might just find a new respect from your people.