I’ve just returned from presenting to a conference of Health Practitioners on performance appraisal and giving feedback to improve employee performance. One of the delegates asked me a great question:
I have an employee who wants to be praised all the time. She always complains in her performance appraisal and review meetings that I don’t give her enough praise. She’s generally a satisfactory performer but not exceptional. It’s driving me mad. What should I do?
I asked the delegates ‘What is praise for? We agreed that praise is best used for acknowledging outstanding performance
We decided praise was not for acknowledging the fact that the employee turned up for work every morning to do the job she was paid to do! (I’m not saying you shouldn’t, periodically, thank your employees for this – but ‘thanking’ and ‘praising’ are two different things)
So, if praise is for outstanding performance but the employee (who craves the praise) is not an outstanding performer what can we do?
Here are few options
1. Understand what the need for praise is all about
I read something Oprah Winfrey had said that, I think, has some relevance to the issue of praise. She said:
‘Everyone wants validation. They want to know:
• Do you see me?
• Do you hear me?
• Does what I say matter to you?’
At the risk of sounding something of a ‘trick psychiatrist’ (help yourself to a lie down on my couch why don’t you?) I think the need for praise often comes from a need to feel validated and valued. It’s about having our self esteem nourished a bit. How can we do this? We could try…
2. Helping our employee see the value and meaning of their work
In my blog ‘Helping Employees to Understand the Bigger Picture’ I explain that you can help employees see the value and meaning of their work by helping them answer the questions
‘Why am I doing this?’
‘How does my work help our business be successful?’
When we can help our employees to answer these questions, either in the performance appraisal meeting or outside of it, we are helping them not only understand the value of their work but also to understand why we value their work (and, of course by extension, why we value them)
Read how to answer those questions and how to explain the meaningfulness of your employee’s work HERE
3. Asking questions and listening (in the performance appraisal meeting and outside of it!)
In order to answer one of our ‘Oprah questions’ – ‘do you hear me?’ – we sometimes need a way of helping our employees to feel confident in actually saying something! This is where questions play their part – great questions that engage our employees in conversations where we can demonstrate a resounding ‘yes I hear what you say and what you say matters’
(For examples of the types of questions you can ask your employee take a look at my blog ‘Are You Asking Your Employees Enough Questions?’ – including some great questions you can use in performance appraisal)
I guess this is an obvious one, but if we want to value our employees we do need to listen to them (do you know of anyone who feels OK about themselves when nobody listens to them?). And we need to listen to them well – to really demonstrate that we value their opinion
(For a very neat strategy on how to listen take a look at my blog ‘Performance Appraisal: A Quick Way to Improve Your Listening Skills’)
Summary: Performance Appraisal – Why Do Employees Want So Much Praise?
Giving praise to our employees is a wonderful thing (and very effective as a management technique) but only when we give that praise to acknowledge outstanding performance .I’ve aimed, in this article, to give some alternatives to praise. Now it’s over to you
What do you do about employees who crave praise (but who aren’t outstanding performers?)