When doling out praise, leaders never expect it to have a negative effect on the team culture. But if a leader offers praise to one employee and not the others, those employees may begin to resent their teammate or even the leader themself. This envy can end up causing a negative domino effect that could impact the whole team.
However, that’s not to say that excellent work should go unrecognized. To offer guidance on how to praise employees the “right” way, 11 members of Young Entrepreneur Council weigh in on how leaders can showcase an employee’s good work without eliciting resentment or generating feelings of favoritism among team members.
1. Regularly Conduct Peer-To-Peer Award Sessions
Establish a regular and consistent practice of recognizing and celebrating the people on your team. It’s even better when you get the individuals on your team praising each other’s attitude, work, etc. One thing we do at Lojistic on a monthly basis in the middle of our team meeting is host a peer-to-peer award and recognition session that’s oriented around the five core values of our company. Each core value award recipient from the prior month verbally recognizes an individual whom they saw displaying the trait they had previously been recognized for. My business partner and I also have an award that we each dole out to someone on the team. Creating a culture of celebrating each other pays massive dividends. – Luke Kupersmith, Lojistic
2. Showcase Individual Goal Achievements Alongside Team Achievements
Stress a value-driven, collaborative mindset within the organization. Take the time to tailor each individual’s periodic performance goals to their unique strengths and interests. Then, showcase their tailored goals alongside milestone achievements for the project team. This model inspires a culture of collaboration and encouragement rather than resentment as team members are able to support each other’s efforts to achieve their individually tailored goals while also working collaboratively on the overall company objectives. – Sri Vanamali, GEX Management, Inc.
3. Remark On Project-Based Wins, Not Personal Traits
To showcase an employee’s good work without eliciting resentment from other team members, it’s important to never praise personal traits. Instead, acknowledge what was great based on the project’s overall objective and/or goals. Remember to pay attention to the whole team and not just continually praise one individual. Everyone does something great sometimes. – Dmitri Lisitski, Influ2
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4. Ensure Praise Is Consistent, Fair and Reliable
Managers can showcase an employee’s good work without eliciting resentment from others by ensuring their public praise is consistent, fair and reliable. Consistent: Your praise comes on a regular basis. Fair: You give a relative level of praise to the relative level of accomplishment. Reliable: You ensure that great work is always given praise. My development teams cumulatively design over a dozen physical consumer products every month for our clients, so I find it especially important to ensure that consistent, fair and reliable praise is given, not just from me, but also from the managers and, even more importantly, from their peers. The latter is most important, and that relies on leadership creating a strong culture around peer endorsements. – Kevin Mako, Mako Design + Invent
5. Allow Team Members To Nominate Each Other For Recognition
We ask people to nominate their peers for our Employee of the Year award every year. Our COO and I look at all the submissions to make the final decision, but when the winner is announced we are able to share some comments their team members said about them, which makes it a lot more impactful than the team thinking the winner is just who our COO and I think is doing great work. – Kelsey Raymond, Influence & Co.
6. Turn Shoutouts Into Cross-Training Opportunities
While it’s easy to resent someone for receiving recognition from management, it’s harder for employees to continue feeling that way when that same person becomes an available resource for professional development. Peer training is one way to ensure staff build stronger rapport and support each other’s growth. So, when managers showcase an employee’s good work, assign that same employee to collaborate with other team members so they can do the same and eventually outperform expectations in the future. That way, everyone gets the training they need to earn management recognition too. – Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep Mattress
7. Host A Weekly ‘Bright Spots’ Call
A weekly “bright spots” call allows a team to showcase each other’s good work without the leader singling out individuals. It also allows teammates to call out the projects and deliverables they are most proud of. In a virtual environment, it’s hard for leaders to see the relationships that are forming between team members outside of group calls. Team members showcasing each other’s work leads to a great sense of community. We do a bright spots call every week. It’s often the only time I hear of the problems that were solved that week without my knowledge, or of a great customer call I wasn’t a part of that the team worked on together. As the leader, I go last and thank the whole team for their hard work every week. Everyone feels validated without any favoritism. – Kara Brown, LeadCoverage
8. Have A Dedicated Slack Channel For Shoutouts
Praise should be part of your workplace culture. For example, at Kin, we have an entire Slack channel dedicated to #kudos. Managers and team members across departments give shoutouts to good work and above-and-beyond contributions so the entire company can celebrate the accomplishment. It’s a way to make the recognition feel special without feeling exclusionary. – Sean Harper, Kin Insurance
9. Invite The Employee To Share Their Own Excellent Work
We encourage employees to share their work and contributions when we witness excellent work. During our staff calls or team meetings, invited employees will present on a way they did something or on how something worked out, giving them the opportunity to be in the spotlight without the manager actively calling attention to it at all. It does double duty as a learning experience to set the course for others on the team as well as encourage widespread kudos for the excellent work. – Bill Gerber, AccountingDepartment.com
10. Use Humor To Create A Positive Environment
Always reward employees with positive feedback for good behavior so that the team does not target an individual or mistake them for a favorite. In the digital realm, use Slack to send these messages and make your Zoom calls encouraging. Humor is a good tactic for spreading positive feedback and minimizing envy. Create an environment in which you can offer both positive feedback and constructive criticism while making the employee laugh and accept the praise or correction with grace. If everyone feels relaxed and in good humor, then they are less likely to feel envy. –Duran Inci, Optimum7
11. Build An Open And Honest Company Culture
This boils down to culture in the overall organization, not necessarily what leaders can do on a one-off or ad hoc basis. We have a policy called “Straight Talk.” It means open, honest and sometimes brutal conversation. We’re transparent to the point that every team member has access to our profit-and-loss statement online whenever they want it. This overall open culture helps me give praise or scold people whenever I need to because it’s just open, honest communication. Conversely, my team members can approach me with feelings of resentment or concerns about favoritism at any time and they know that I’ll respond honestly. – Steven Knight, Mosaic Home Services Ltd.