I read an interesting article in the news this morning in the UK about research carried out in education. One I thought I would share with you as it has relevance to most workplaces too.
The research found that excessive praise for struggling children by teachers may be counter-productive to learning. It said, “too much praise for low achievers can convey a message of low expectations”.
It also warned that if children’s failure brings them sympathy, they are more likely to associate that approval with underachievement.
Experts concluded that children need balanced advice to tell them when they are meeting the standards expected. They also need specific pointers as to where they need to improve, rather than general praise or criticism for work done “well” or “badly”.
I think these lessons apply equally to the workplace too.
How often do we give specific, actionable feedback for unacceptable workplace behaviours? How often do we ignore work done to standards that fall short of what we wanted? How often do we issue praise for work that is merely average or say “great work” for something that required only modest effort?
Yes, struggling employees need our support and coaching to help them to improve their performance. However, they also need clear and tangible feedback to know specifically what they are doing well. They also need to know specifically where they need to improve.
In the workplace, the problem is usually that managers lack the skills to have these “tough” conversations. They do not understand the importance of giving behaviour-based feedback. Instead they issue vague and un-actionable guidance. Most have never been shown how to have direct, real and necessary conversations with their staff.
So, are you lavishing unhelpful praise on your employees? If you recoginse these challenges in your organisation, why not get in touch to discuss our “Dealing with the Tough Stuff” programme. We can enable your managers and team leaders to:
- De-personalise tough feedback
- Uncover the root causes of difficult behaviour
- Get clear with their expectations for behaviour and performance
A link to the original BBC article can be found here.