No one enjoys making mistakes in day-to-day job duties, but mistakes do happen, and it never seems to get any easier to accept them. Perhaps the reason for that is because every mistake you make in your job is likely to be noted by a boss, a coworker or a customer. And, invariably, they will point out the mistake, no matter how small it might be.
But what about all the things you did right the same day? Did someone thank you for those? Probably not.
Most workers don’t have expectations that they will be praised for everything they do, but there clearly is a void between our need to hear that we’ve done good work and how often we hear that.
Surveys show that most workers crave more feedback on their jobs. As many as 60 percent of workers say they don’t receive ongoing comments from their supervisors on job performance, good or bad.
Organizational psychologist Bruce Katcher says that one of the firmest psychological principles is that positive reinforcement increases the probability that a behavior will occur again in the future. “Without positive feedback, employees become unhappy, unmotivated, and unproductive,” he says.
Katcher adds that instead of using praise to shape behavior, many supervisors use their comments to criticize, scold and berate employees. He believes a timely “Good work,” “Nice job” or other short form of praise can benefit the working relationship between the supervisor and employee.
Katcher says managers often have not been trained to thank workers, and that is one of the problems. He offers some tips for supervisors:
“Get some simple training in when and how to use positive feedback. Immediate praise that someone has done a good job is a more powerful motivator than giving them a pay raise months later. Carefully used appropriate praise that is given soon after the work is a strong motivator and can help the entire work crew if the praise is presented publicly.
“Management needs to encourage this behavior by adopting it up in the corporate structure, too. If senior management makes an effort to thank supervisors who praise their workers, it encourages more of it.
“Companies need to include the giving of positive feedback as part of the performance review process for all workers. This builds an incentive for supervisors to employ praise on a regular process, improving worker motivation as part of their everyday work.”
Katcher says that pointing out good work can be a powerful tool if it is used in the right manner. Supervisors must be sincere in their praise, and it is most beneficial if praise occurs spontaneously. Workers know when they’ve done a good job and appreciate recognition for it. But a note from a supervisor two weeks later dilutes the power of the act.
Each of us understands that we have made and will continue to make some mistakes in our daily work. And we’ll probably hear about them when we do.
But we’ll probably also do some noteworthy things that in a small way will help the company achieve its goals. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear some positive feedback for those acts, rather than just hear the criticism after a mistake?