Do Employees Deserve Praise Just for Doing Their Job?

Giving sincere, positive feedback to your workers is beneficial for retention and your bottom line

Liz Uram
Liz Uram

Do you ever feel like there is way too much appreciation shown in your workplace? If you said no, you’re not alone. Your team would probably say the same thing.

A Gallup survey revealed that 65% of employees haven’t received recognition in the last year. This directly correlates to the studies that consistently report that two-thirds of American workers are disengaged.

Employees who don’t receive recognition are 51% more likely to look for another job; are less motivated to produce more and better work; and are less likely to respect you as a leader.

It’s easy to see that one of the most important communication skills in a leader’s skill kit is the ability to give positive feedback. This is also one of the most underdeveloped skills for many leaders. The reason is that some leaders just don’t know where to start.

Here are the five most common questions leaders have about giving praise:

1. Why should I praise someone for just doing his or her job?

Two words: positive reinforcement. Do you want them to keep doing their job? Keep this phrase in mind: What gets rewarded gets repeated. If you want them to keep doing their job, let them know that their work is appreciated.

One study concluded that 81% of employees would produce better work more often if they received personal recognition for their efforts. 

That seems like a good return on investment for a few sincere words of appreciation.

2. I don’t need praise; why do they?

Who knows? Everyone has different internal drives that determine what motivates them. Recognition is one of the top motivators along with challenging work, growth opportunities, job security, being part of a team, and compensation.

If you happen to be motivated by growth opportunities, you may not understand why someone needs a pat on the back. You might even think they are being needy. Beware. That kind of thinking is a barrier to your own growth and could hold you back from achieving your goals.

The best leaders understand that everyone is different, and they meet people where they’re at without judgment.

3. How do I give praise without sounding phony?

The secret to meaningful recognition is to make it sincere, specific and timely.

Sincere. This part is easy. If you are specific and timely and you are genuine with your praise you will automatically come across as sincere.

Specific. Instead of a generic “Good job!” try saying, “Thanks for taking the initiative to help John get that project finished. I really appreciate your teamwork.” The person is more likely to repeat the behavior when they know what the praise is for.

Timely. Say it as close to the event as possible. If you wait, it loses its impact. Follow this rule for keeping your praise timely: When you see it, say it.

4. Should I praise in public or in private?

You should give your praise where the employee is most comfortable. However, many leaders are hesitant to give recognition in public. They worry that it will create jealousy or resentment. Forget those fears.

One benefit of praising in public is that it shows the lower performers what’s possible. It can actually be the shot in the arm they need to step up. Looking for opportunities to give shoutouts for positive behaviors, both big and small, in public creates a culture of appreciation.

You might even notice team members praising each other which will result in increased morale and trust. One study showed that 90% of direct reports agree that team spirit is increased when the leader provides appreciation and support.

5. How often should I offer praise?

We know that once-a-year praise is not enough, but many leaders don’t know how often they should acknowledge good work. This is a good question because praising too often can be as bad as not praising often enough. Running around giving high-fives, thumbs up and generic “thanks” is exhausting for you and uninspiring to your team.

A good rule of thumb is to provide positive praise to each person on your team once a week. You may be thinking, “Some people aren’t doing anything worth praising on a weekly basis.” Look harder.

Did your chronically tardy employee show up to the meeting on time? Let them know you appreciate that.

What about the people who come in day after day and do their job? Nothing more, nothing less. They get the job done and you need them. Let them know you appreciate being able to count on them.

The benefits of appreciation are clear: increased retention, motivated team members who work hard, and respect for you as a leader. Start catching people in the act of doing things right. Who knows, maybe you’ll get the appreciation you deserve as well.

About the author: Liz Uram is a nationally recognized speaker, trainer, consultant and author. She equips leaders with the tools they need to communicate like a boss so they can make a bigger impact, get better results, and motivate others to do their best. Contact her at


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