No doubt you’re happy when line managers remember to praise the people who work for them. Properly delivered, praise can do wonders for morale and productivity.

But it can also backfire, creating the opposite effect. Here are four ways of praising employees that will eventually burn the bestower:

    • Expressing control. “You did it absolutely right. Just how I would have handled it.” Managers who praise employees for doing exactly what they would have done are merely affirming their status – and putting the employees in their place.
    • Manipulation. “Great work on that report, Jean. Now give me the next one by Wednesday, OK?” Here, praise becomes a means of squeezing the employee for more output.
  • The big “but.” A boss delivering a reprimand may try to soften the blow by praising the person first. Don’t. Employees will learn to tune out the praise, while waiting for the “but.”
  • Fakery. Remember the uber-awful manager Bill Lumbergh in “Office Space”? One of his obnoxious traits was his phony mouthing of “that’d be great,” which might be taken as encouragement – by a six-year-old.

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