On a regular basis, I hear employees make comments such as “I really wish my boss would give me feedback that was nice for a change.” Or “I only ever get told off.”
These kinds of comments have a major impact on the ability for your people to shine and achieve the best in their jobs. Being constantly put down, only decreases your employees’ engagement, their ability to work effectively and, even worse, they often take these feelings home with them, impacting their families.

Connections matter

More than ever, people are wanting to feel connected with each other and their workplace. Connecting with each other is not just about being nice to each other – it’s about creating a workplace where people feel they are supported and have people wanting to bring out the best in them. Connected organisations thrive. Disconnected ones do not.

So how do we increase our connection? We look at what we’re saying and how we’re saying it. Quite simply, decrease the put downs and instead, focus on increasing the compliments.

Check your put downs

The first step to creating more connection is to look at where you’re not creating it, starting with just how much of a “put down” culture is happening across your business. Just how often do you use a “put down” statement instead of giving an actual compliment? Your analysis might surprise you.

In New Zealand, we use banter and sarcasm to connect. We put each other down to crack each other up and to build relationships. We will use these kinds of comments to build rapport such as “that’s great work -for a beginner!” Or “jeez, guess you might just earn that pay rise yet!”

Quite quickly we think that giving these statements is a way to give a compliment, while allowing us to hide behind the sarcasm so we don’t come across as too soppy or emotional.

Yet if this is all we are saying, your employees will quite quickly start missing the compliment, and unconsciously turn it into yet another “put down”. These build up over time. They disengage your people, and they hurt people.

Quite simply if you’re going to give a compliment, make it a compliment.

Create a compliment culture

Shift your language so it helps people to shine and be at their best every day. Start creating real compliments by using some of the following techniques:

Be specific: What makes a compliment really stand out is when someone remembers the details. Instead of telling someone they did “great”, tell them why they were great. “You were great on that job because you stopped and thought about what was going to happen, picked up the phone straight away and sorted out the issue. Thank you!”

Say their name: Research shows that using someone’s name communicates that they are important. Weave their name into the compliment, making the compliment land and actually be heard.

Let your employee know they had an impact:  If someone at work is going above and beyond, let them know the impact. Tell them what the impact is having and that you, the team or even the client has noticed it. I overheard one of my clients take his young apprentice aside the other day and say “Hey mate, just wanted to say the way that you handled those foundations with such a high level of detail definitely got off us to the right start. Bloody awesome mate!”

Check Your Ending: Often giving a compliment throws people, and they will apply everything needed to create a great compliment, but then three seconds later, add on a sarcastic compliment to ‘lighten the mood’. For example, I overheard a manager recently say to their employee “You did a great job today…but try a little harder next time”. If you give someone a compliment like this, they won’t hear it as they will just hear the ending. It doesn’t lighten the mood, it just makes the compliment redundant, and shifts it back into being a “put down”.

Add Company Recognition: Giving compliments doesn’t just come down to the individual. You can also, as a company, add wider compliments, such as starting peer-to-peer recognition awards. A client of mine introduced The Manaakitanga Award where employees are encouraged to nominate those colleagues, preferably in other teams, who have gone above and beyond for them.  This was a huge success and had the added bonus of developing a “one team” approach. The power of mates thanking mates is often under-utilised but can be such a game changer to businesses when applied.

Ask What Your Employees Want: We all have different ways of receiving a compliment, so check in with your team on how they like to be given a compliment or recognised for a job well done. This is a great way of increasing your company recognition that works for you and your team.

Above all, check in regularly with how much the sarcasm or banter is lessening the connection with your workforce.

Dial up your compliments and increase the long-lasting connection amongst your team, helping your people shine their brightest and perform at their best!

This article is not intended to be a replacement for legal advice.