Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Impact of Praise on Morale and Engagement

The Importance of Praise

When I was a young teacher, I didn’t want to reward my students for doing the things that were basic expectations, such as putting their names on their papers or turning in their work on time. 

As I got more experienced, and especially after I had children, I was asked the question, "When your kids make up their bed or clean their room (or other household chore), do you praise them for that?" When I answered yes, the wise person who was coaching me through my beliefs said, "Does that make them want to do it again?" I had to admit (to myself) that I used praise with my daughters because I knew it made them feel good and because I wanted them to do it again when asked. 

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That conversation helped me to realize that praising my students for doing something I had asked them to do made them want to do more of it.

I began to celebrate students for the small and big accomplishments. Little did I know that it would create a more positive, productive, and fun environment in our classroom.

As I moved into a school leader position, I carried my beliefs with me and applied it to my relationships with staff members. It's not only students who want to work in an environment that’s positive, productive, and fun. Adults do, too! 

"Praise, like sunlight, helps all things to grow." - Croft M. Pentz

Gallup finds that praise, although it has great impact, is not used that often. From the Gallup site, "Only one in three workers in the U.S. and Germany strongly agree that they received recognition or praise in the past seven days for doing good work -- and those who disagree are twice as likely to say they'll quit in the next year. Praise is that powerful."


Here's more information from Gallup on the power of praising teams:

  • When teams are praised, they feel that their work is meaningful. 
  • Teams who don't receive praise don't trust their colleagues. 
  • Teams who receive praise make quality a top priority in their work.
  • Teams who receive praise "openly share information, knowledge, and ideas with one another." (Isn't this a dream environment for schools, PLCs, and other teams within schools and districts?)

How much praise should be given compared to negative feedback? From Harvard Business Review: The Ideal Praise-to-Criticism Ratio 

“The factor that made the greatest difference between the most and least successful teams was the ratio of positive comments to negative comments…
The average ratio for the highest-performing teams was 5.6… The medium-performance teams averaged 1.9… But the average for the low-performing teams, at 0.36 to 1, was almost three negative comments for every positive one.”

From Fast Company, here are 5 ideas to regularly recognize and praise a team:

1. Keep a running list of successes. (Provide time at faculty meetings or other department/PLC meetings to share out the "wins and wows.")

2. Share kudos on social media. (This emphasizes the importance of Telling Your School's Story!)

3. Validate positive actions. (Don't let dissatisfaction be the only time an employee hears from you! The "no news is good news" saying doesn't apply here. Give good news, too!)

4. Be specific. (Let someone know exactly what you liked about their work.)

5. Be authentic and consistent. (Praise should not be given as a way to manipulate. Others can read through false praise, so be sure to keep it real!)

From your experiences, what would you add about the impact of praise? I would love for you to leave your thoughts in the comments below! 

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The Impact of Praise

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