Praise Be – Or Not?

Last fall in Bergen, Norway, an unexpected thing happened while I was teaching an evening course on interview technique in English to a group of unemployed engineers who had lost their jobs because of downsizing related to the offshore oil industry. After having given them a long list of positive adjectives – creative, loyal, hardworking, etc. – I asked them to choose five to describe themselves and then give examples to back up their choice (‘I’m creative; for example, last month I designed a new piece of equipment.’). The classroom buzzed with energy while they traded examples with their partners. When this exercise was through, I explained the importance of giving instances of not only how they saw themselves at work but rather how others at saw them. Choosing from this same list of adjectives, what kind of positive feedback had they gotten from, say, their managers?

Surprised, I asked them to explain why nobody was saying anything. They replied that they couldn’t think of any one time where they had been given positive verbal feedback from their superiors. While they had heard that their work was acceptable during their annual performance review, this group of 25 people couldn’t think of one instance where they had been singled out in a positive way by their boss and told that they’d personally really ‘done a great job’. This lack of praise on the part of managers is not unique to this country, but happens all over – why is this so when at heart every employee needs to hear at one time or another that he or she has truly been noticed?

Something for managers to reflect upon? Tekna offers several courses to improve your management skills.

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