How to give (and receive) praise in the office

Sam McKeith

It’s no secret that there’s an art to giving constructive office feedback so you don’t come off as an irritating and unpleasant boss.

While that’s taken for granted, what’s often overlooked are the potential pitfalls when it comes to giving, and getting, praise at work.

Despite its lower profile, bestowing praise is an underrated skill because it’s an easy way to boost staff morale and encourages better results in the future.

Here are a few simple ways to get you on the right track.

Be positive, and get specific

First off, there’s a big difference between platitudes like “great presentation’ and “excellent job”, and more meaningful feedback that hits home.

For praise to really count, it helps for it to be detailed and targeted. That way, as a boss you’re clearly demonstrating you’ve taken time to look at the employee’s work and have genuinely appreciated what they’ve done.

The other big plus is that the employee will also know you pay attention to what they do – another motivator to keep up their good work.

Pick your words carefully

There’s a tendency for today’s offices to be upbeat and positive, pretty much all of the time. Whenever someone finishes a task they’ve done an “awesome” job, while ideas can be “great” just for being aired.

Sure, that’s not a bad thing.

However, in this environment, words like “super”, “excellent” and “wonderful” are not enough. They don’t cut through, and they won’t act as effective motivators for your team now, or down the track.

So get descriptive with your praise, and use a matter of fact tone when doing so. This will help to communicate to the employee that they’re being given feedback above and beyond the usual office pleasantries.

Action speaks louder than words

If an employee’s has done something great, then demonstrate what that means to you, and your organisation.

Words are nice, but what can really boost morale is giving kudos, or even better more responsibility, showing your faith in their judgement and skills.

As the Harvard Business Review notes, this could mean getting the staff member to lead on a new project, giving them a mentoring role for junior employees, or in some other way making the praise public.

Employees pay attention too

It’s not just bosses who should take care to get praise right.

For employees, receiving praise from the boss can be a weird feeling, especially if you don’t interact with him or her on a day-to-day basis.

With that in mind, make sure you get the interaction correct. You don’t want to undo your good work! Keep steady eye contact, stay engaged in what your boss is saying, and maintain open body language – no crossed arms or edging away.

Sam McKeith

Sam McKeith is Sydney-based media professional. He has contributed to many leading publications including The Huffington Post, The Australian Financial Review, The Australian and BRW Magazine. He was previously a senior reporter at the Australian Associated Press where he covered national affairs.