Managers take note: A little praise can go a long way

ON THE JOB

February 28, 2007|By HANAH CHO

Notice how a simple "nice work" from your supervisor can make you feel appreciated and inspired to do a better job?

Most workers would agree that employee recognition is common sense, yet appears missing in many of our workplaces.

A new book, The Carrot Principle, explores how the "best managers use recognition to engage their people, retain talent and accelerate performance."

The two authors use extensive research, including surveys, interviews and a 10-year study of 200,000 employees and managers to support their case that frequent and meaningful recognition produces positive results.

For instance, 70 percent of employees who work for "high recognition" managers say they have a high desire to be working for their current company a year from now. That contrasts with 24.7 percent of workers who work for "low recognition" managers. (The results are from a 1,005-worker survey, which has a margin of error of 0.5 percentage point.)

Why do managers fail at recognizing their workers?

Adrian Gostick, one of the co-authors, notes a number of reasons, including managers who don't believe recognition works and those who believe they'll be taken advantage of.

"What it boils down to is, as managers, we get busy," Gostick says. "We just forget that people in our charge are our people. They need reinforcement ... and need proof of accomplishment."

And Gostick notes that many managers lack training.

"We don't promote people because they're engaging or they know how to motivate others or how to build a team," he says. "We promote people who are capable. ... We've got to train them to understand what it is employees are looking for."

The book offers 125 ideas the authors culled from interviews with managers - everything from welcoming a new worker with a small celebration to toasting an employee's recent achievement during lunch to hiring a limo to drive an employee to work each day for a week.

"There are very inexpensive ways you could recognize and create a tremendous impact," Gostick says.

At Salerno's Restaurant and Catering in Eldersburg, its owners are taking some 65 employees and their families on a Disney cruise. They were set to leave last weekend and return March 4 to reopen the restaurant.

This is the third cruise for which husband-and-wife owners Bruce and Suzanne Reamer have footed the bill to recognize their employees for their hard work, especially during catering season, when many work 14 to 18 hours a day, five to seven days a week. The trip's cost is more than $100,000 for the group.

"This is a good chance to go away and spend time together," Bruce Reamer says. "Without the employees, the business won't be successful."

From the mailbag: Maybe it's not such a bad idea to socialize with the boss after hours. A few readers disagreed with a recent column that advised keeping a strictly professional relationship with your boss even if that manager is offering the social invitation. In this case, my friend's boss asked her out on a double date.

Charlotte, of Sparrows Point, says my friend should consider the invite as a compliment and a way to enhance the working relationship, considering socializing between workers and their bosses has been a common practice among male professionals.

"I think she would be missing out on a great opportunity to get to know her on a personal level if she declined," she writes. "Look at men and their opportunities when they golf [or] play cards ... with the boss. They have been doing it for years - the `Good Old Boys' network. Why can't women enjoy the same?"

Steve, a Baltimorean, who is stationed in Germany with the U.S. Air Force, agrees with Charlotte's point from a supervisor's perspective.

"I go to lunch and meet with my people after hours all the time," he writes. "I believe that this strengthens our overall relationship. They work hard for Steve the boss as well as Steve the friend. It is very important for the working relationship that they know I am an average guy who does and likes the same things that they do."

How have you been recognized by your boss? Send your stories, tips and questions to working@baltsun.com. Please include your first name and your city. On the Job is published Monday at www.baltimoresun.com.

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