Praising praise

Most hotels have an all-associate meeting, once a month or a quarter, sometimes known as a “Koffee Klatch.” At our most recent meeting, most members of the executive committee presented their team’s accomplishments for 2013.

One member of my EC neglected to do so. This particular division head knew immediately he’d made a mistake. His team had done quite a lot to improve the operation during the year, and they deserved to be recognized in front of their peers. After the meeting, his team politely asked, “Hey, what about us?” Be assured the division head will make up for his error at the next meeting!

I’ve normally found it easy to show gratitude to my staff for doing great work but wanted to know if there was evidence that doing so improves their well-being and results. I did some quick online research to see if any studies have shown a connection between showing gratitude and improved employee engagement. It turns out lots of work has been done on this subject; here are some findings I found interesting:

  • Praising someone’s good work causes dopamine to be released in their brain. Dopamine is a chemical that is credited with generating feelings of pride and pleasure. 
  • Showing gratitude also increases feelings of goodwill in the person delivering the praise.
  • People who don’t receive praise for their efforts report having the notion, “What am I doing this for?” It seems it’s not all about the money!
  • Recognizing entire teams of associates for the value they add to the overall operation bolsters the enthusiasm of each member of the team and improves their standing within the organization. This is why we celebrate Housekeeping Week!
  • Here’s a big caveat: faint praise doesn’t work, and neither do scheduled recognition ceremonies — at least not for very long. Praise needs to happen on a regular basis under typical business conditions for it to be effective. 
  • Praise also needs to be very specific. A simple “great job” won’t suffice. Tell them exactly what did they did that had you say “great job” in the first place.
  • Rodd Wagner and Jim Harter, authors of “12: The Elements of Great Managing,” said, “Great managers are extremely effective in figuring out the best form of praise for each person. Some managers worry that they can give employees too much recognition. But the research shows that it’s extremely difficult to do that, as long as the recognition is right for the person.”

How do you show your gratitude to your staff? What works? What doesn’t work?