Thoughts of a Serial Tinkerer

Practicing Praise in the Workplace

Posted on 09 Sep 2014.

There has been a recent meme going around on social media, particularly Facebook, of posting things you are grateful for and nominating friends to do the same. At the same time, my company has a practice of sending a weekly newsletter with “shout outs” written by colleagues to other colleagues, praising them for their good work. The newsletter always is sent around the same time of the week and it’s one of the few emails I look forward to reading.

I have recently been reading Simon Sinek’s latest book, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’’t (referral link), which talks in-depth about the biological reasons behind what encourages safe, productive, trusting, and happy workplaces. Sinek’s premise is that many of our bio-chemical responses, like serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphines, when released in proper balance, can help people be productive and happy at work and that as leaders, our job is to build a culture and environment in which that is possible.

I believe one way to build that culture is through establishing a practice of praise. Research suggests that expressing gratitude helps not only oneself but also encourages others. In one study conducted by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, fund-raisers made 50% more calls than a control group when they were thanked by their boss for their work.

Working remotely and managing a mostly remote team means that some of the social benefits of being in the same physical vicinity as my colleagues are lost. It’s not as easy to clap a colleague on the back or thank them in passing in the hallway. Our friendly weekly email gives everyone the chance to express some gratitude for their coworkers and can trigger real bio-chemical response that can help build healthier and stronger colleagues and teams.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank my colleague, Tim Cosgrove, for the link to Harvard’s article on gratitude and also my wife, Abigail McMurray, for the copy of Sinek’s book.

How are you practicing praise in your workplace today?