Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison took to Facebook in August to announce he was giving back participation trophies his sons had brought home. "I'm not about to raise to boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best...cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better...not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy," he wrote.
Employers would be wise to adopt a similar stance when it comes to praising employees for merely doing their jobs. That's according to Tom Gimbel, founder and CEO of staffing and recruiting firm LaSalle Network. Here's his rationale.
1. A salary is a reward in itself.
Gimbel recalls a "Mad Men" episode in which Peggy walks into Don's office and says something like, "You never say 'Thank you.' You never say 'Great job!'" He responds by yelling, "That's what the money's for!" While the sentiment may be harsh, employees need to know what's expected of them and be accountable for giving 100 percent. "To recognize and applaud [people] for doing the basics of their jobs creates an environment where the basics are viewed as superior accomplishments," Gimbel says. "And that doesn't lead to high growth."
2. Praising people for doing the bare minimum isn't good for them.
For example, when you hire recent college grads and praise them for doing their jobs you're creating an ego that hasn't accomplished anything. "And that ends up being a management disaster in the years to come," he says. "Now you've got people who've been doing just their job and they've got an inflated self-worth because you put them up on a pedestal early on."
3. Unnecessary praise leads to stagnation.
Your organization likely has A, B and C players. When you applaud A-Players for doing their jobs you're acknowledging that what the C-Players are doing is acceptable. This will not encourage people to invest more of themselves into their work.
4. Setting expectations and holding people accountable staves off problems.
Do this from day one and you won't run into many issues with employees who have a sense of entitlement. "It's like preventative medicine," he says. "If you worry about having cavities and you've never brushed your teeth, then you've got a problem."
5. Instead of praise, employees need open and frequent communication.
Every manager should have a one-on-one with their employees at least twice a month for anywhere between five and 30 minutes. Half of these meetings should be led by management and the other half by the employee. Basically, team members need to be getting honest feedback, as well as room to raise issues that concern them. If you think you have too many employees to actually do this, you need to invest in more managers. "There should be an employee-manager ratio that allows for it to be controlled," he says. "If you can meet with your client twice a month, you [can do it with] your employees [who] are more important than your clients."