It's not a negative thing to be positive.

It's natural to want to praise people for doing their work. It's something I do myself, and I believe it's okay, as long as I'm conscious of how often I do it and what I'm doing it for.

It's important to do nice things for people and to show appreciation, but applauding effort alone can lead to a complacent workforce. It creates an environment where the basics are viewed as big accomplishments and it doesn't motivate employees to grow.

I believe in setting expectations and holding people accountable. If someone goes above and beyond in their role, they deserve applause. But when people are praised for doing basic job functions, they can develop an ego that still has yet to really accomplish anything.

They can lose the motivation to achieve more when every little thing they do gets rewarded. They stop pushing for more, and when that stops, companies don't achieve high growth. Business takes a hit and the culture shifts.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying companies should be ran like a military camp. We have fun at LaSalle. We have parties and company-wide incentive trips when goals are hit.

Our staff is invested in the success of the people around them, and truly enjoys working with one another. But all the fun stuff doesn't happen unless goals are hit, and every employee knows that.

Culture without revenue growth isn't a good thing. We've won over 30 culture-based awards, but if we weren't growing, I'd shift to a completely different culture. It's important to have fun, but the fun comes second.

To get the most out of employees, expectations have to be set from day one. They have to understand the culture. They have to know how success is measured. They have to know the company's overall goals and realize what they're working towards.

When I meet with candidates who are interviewing with us, I tell them a couple things: 1) You will work harder than you probably have before. 2) This is a fast-paced environment; there is no down time. 3) If you go beyond what's expected and excel, you'll be rewarded and work your way up the ladder.

That way, if they come on board, expectations are already set. They understand the culture. They will understand what it will take to earn praise. That motivates people who have a strong work ethic, and those are the people I want to work with every day.

I believe in sharing success stories in the office. I believe in getting excited when a deal closes or when we get a new client. It's good to be positive. People don't want to be surrounded by negative people. But there's a line you have to walk when it comes to keeping work fun for everyone vs. applauding the bare minimum.

The big accomplishments will mean that much more when every little thing isn't rewarded.

Published on: Dec 11, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.