Workplace blogs
Workplace blogs

Is Your Praise as Motivating as it Could Be?

The number one thing employees say they want more of in survey after survey is to feel appreciated. One of the simplest ways to appreciate people of course is to offer them a regular dose of sincere, 100% positive, timely praise when it is warranted.

But are all types of praise equally effective at motivating and engaging employees?  And, more importantly, does the way you offer praise impact an employee’s growth as effectively as possible?

According to Dr. Carol Dweck, a social psychology professor at  Stanford University, people develop and learn from setbacks and failures in two very distinct ways.  Some people hold what’s known as a “fixed mind-set” belief, which means that they feel that most of their abilities and intelligence levels are more or less set in stone.  These people tend to perceive any setbacks as a threat to their identity and sense of worth. These individuals tend to focus on external validation.

Conversely, other people possess a “growth mind-set” belief that suggests their abilities and intelligence can be grown and nurtured,  so they tend to view setbacks as opportunities for growth and hence tend to be more persistent when the going gets rough.

Now here’s the connection to praise and motivation.  Studies of children and in fact of people of all ages suggests that the best approach for nurturing growth in a person is to praise their effort, not their innate talent or intelligence.  A review of 150 praise studies by scholars at Stanford and Reed College support these findings that praising ability, although an ego-booster for sure, actually reduces persistence.  Conversely, praising a person’s effort, ability to grow, ability to learn, ability to be challenged, ability to deal with setbacks,  and praising the process a person goes through leads them to growth mind-set behaviors, where they tend to view setbacks as challenges to overcome or mere bumps in the road.

So think about your style of praising employees.  Are you focused only on their raw talent, or are you supporting your colleagues efforts to tackle challenges and grow as employees?


Michael Kerr,







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