Are you too tightfisted with praise?

by | Jan 20, 2016 | Blog | 0 comments

thank you textYes, numbers are the language of business.

Yes, company leaders need to focus on budgets, spending and other costs of doing business to strengthen the organization so they can better serve employees, customers and shareholders.

Yet, do leaders really have to be as tight with the words “thank you” and “yes” as they are with their money, time and other resources?

Take Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer who’s on rocky ground with investors and employees for a range of issues, including raising doubts whether she has a solid plan to turn around the business.

In a recent New York Times article, Yahoo’s Brain Drain Shows a Loss of Faith Inside the Company, one of her senior vice presidents explained to the reporter that Ms. Mayer was the best boss he had ever had, but acknowledged some truth in the common criticism that she was tightfisted with praise and sometimes displayed a harshness that could be demoralizing.

“Marissa is the type of boss that makes you feel like you’re disappointing her at all times, so I always feel like I’m on the verge of being fired,” said Mr. Jeff Bonforte, Yahoo’s senior vice president for communications products who is widely respected for both his talent and his irreverence. “It’s never, ‘Way to go, Jeff!’ ”

Would an “Atta boy!”; “Great job!”; or “Thanks for your hard work,” really be that hard to deliver?

There’s no cost to state those words so no worry about busting the budget.

Leaders like Mayer just need to pay attention, be empathetic and take a few minutes to say “thank you,” “yes” or some sign of acknowledgement.

Regardless of our position, we appreciate praise. It actually increases our perception of our status—similar to getting a promotion or raise. (Just look at a Yahoo senior vice president speaking on the record to the New York Times about how he’s craving some praise.)

Yes, the same reward region of the brain lights up for words of praise as well as a bag of money.

And speaking of “yes,” why can’t leaders agree more often?

In improv theater, one of the earliest lessons is how to say “Yes, and….” to acknowledge your partners and continue with the scene.

When leaders say “yes” or “yes, and”, they don’t necessary have to give up their point of view, or even agree with you. However with “yes” or a variant of it, they are acknowledging that they have heard you.

And we like to be heard, just as we like to be thanked for our efforts and results.

So leaders at all levels, how about having some empathy with your fellow human beings and recognizing them?

Well, it may be hard for people at the top to be empathetic, because of their cognitive prowess and powerful status, which is another issue.

But still, does to pay to be so frugal with “thank you” and “yes”?


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