A Little Bit of Praise Goes a Long Way
There are differences in every job you hold,
and especially in every manager you work under. I’ve worked with the super hands-on managers, the couldn’t-care-less managers, and the I-can-do-this-better-than-you managers. But one thing I’ve noticed at my new job this summer, is that a little praise goes a long way.
The job is simple. I take orders at the counter, and run food out to our guests. A basic two-step process that honestly, a monkey could learn how to do. Along with it comes knowledge of the menu, the business, and customer service, but these things are picked up quickly. After my first training shift, I knew I had it in the bag.
After each day, my new managers have thanked me for my work, and told me something specific that I did well that day, and let me tell you, it means alot.
Even at a job I could do with my eyes closed.
“You’re doing such a great job learning the menu and you’ve only been here a few days.” “You handled that rush like a pro.” “Great job organizing that catering order today, we really appreciate that.”
Every time I’m caught a little off-guard, as I’m not used to getting praise for simple tasks like that. The last few managers I’ve had weren’t too appreciative, so I’m used to working hard in the background. But its refreshing to be thanked and appreciated for tasks you find simple.
(I’m about to throw some psychology terms at you. I’m not an expert, but have taken 2 college psych classes, and have access to the internet, so… here’s my understanding.)
I think that as humans and imperfect people, it’s easy for us to resort to punishment as a teaching technique.
In the world of Operant Conditioning, Punishment is understood as, “any change that occurs after a behavior that reduces the likelihood that that behavior will occur again in the future.” (VeryWellMind)
Like getting grounded after missing curfew.
Or getting fired when you lose a big client.
You do something bad = you get bad things in return.
But here’s where I’d like to see a shift.
Instead of punishment, let’s throw in some positive reinforcement.
In the same school of thought, positive reinforcement is understood to be, “the addition of a reinforcing stimulus following a behavior that makes it more likely that the behavior will occur again in the future.” (VeryWellMind)
Like receiving praise for a job well done, or getting a promotion after securing a new client.
You do something good = you get good things in return.
It’s just like training a dog. You know how when you first get a puppy, you teach them everything. If they have an accident in the house or bite someone, they go in their crate (punishment). But, when they sit for you or stop barking when they’re told, they’re showered with good boy!‘s and pets and kisses and love (positive reinforcement).
Related Content: Embody the Pack-Leader Mentality: A Lesson Learned from Dog Training
People are a lot like dogs.
We respond well to a combination of both punishment, and reinforcement. But too often, we rely on the punishment and ignore the positive reinforcement.
And punishment is such a d r a g.
Nobody likes getting yelled at or penalized. It’s promoting negative feelings and energy, and likely to ruin your day. I know that whenever I would get yelled at by my parents or scolded by a boss, my whole energy changed.
But, at the job I held this summer, I had one of those days where the opposite happened.
My boss asked me to come in to my shift early, and of course, I did so happily.
But then he forgot to give me a break.
Then he let the girl who came in after me, leave early.
Then he asked me to stay 90 minutes late.
And honestly, at that point, I was pissed.
I was tired, I was supposed to only have worked a 5 hour shift, but it had turned into an all-day affair.
I was frustrated and grumpy, and when he told me to go organize our (very small, cramped, messy) office, I nearly lost it.
But, I put on my happy face, said, “Yes sir,” and completed the assigned task.
Afterwards, I received an outpouring of praise and gratitude.
“I knew you’d be the best person for that job, I’ve noticed how clean and organized you keep the restaurant on your shifts.” “We appreciate this so much, we’ll be sure to tell the owner that this was all you.” “Thank you so much for all of your help today, you’ve only been here 3 weeks but I’m going to talk to the owner about a supervisor position for you, and a raise.”
When I finally clocked out and left that day? I was beaming.
All of the frustration from the day had dissolved, and the words thank you, supervisor, raise, were ringing in my ears.
So this week, offer praise. Offer thanks. Offer gratitude. Tell your people you appreciate them and all they do for you, even if it’s something as small as unloading the dishwasher. You might just make their day.