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Engagement Marketing

“The Power of Acknowledgment” – Myth-ing in Action

In my internal marketing workshops, I sometimes joke about positive reinforcement in the workplace being a lack of negative reinforcement. In other words, if you didn’t get your hand slapped at work today for doing something wrong, you might have done a good job. But how would you know when management holds back with its compliments and “atta boys?”

In her book, The Power of Acknowledgment, Judith Umlas explains why some managers are likely to withhold praise, and she effectively counters these ‘myths’ of acknowledgment.

Myth: If you praise people too often, it won’t mean as much

The law of diminishing returns does not apply to praise that is genuine and heartfelt. According to Umlas, “Imagine that your spouse or partner tells you every day with absolute sincerity how wonderful and incredible you are. Does that make you appreciate this deeply felt acknowledgment any less?”

Myth: If you tell people how good they are, they might not work as hard

Acknowledging people’s efforts will not take away their motivation to be better. “Acknowledgment and striving go together. When people feel validated through acknowledgment … they will go to great lengths … to get the job done the best they possibly can.”

Myth: A compliment given infrequently will be more valued

An acknowledgment means a great deal, especially when it comes from a manager who rarely gives praise. Umlas considers this from the employee’s perspective: “But what about all the time I spent worrying about … whether I’m doing a good enough job? … My concerns would be alleviated … and my performance might actually be improved if [managers] let me know on a more regular basis what they see as my worth and contribution to the organization.”

I’ve highlighted just the workplace-related excerpts from The Power of Acknowledgment. Umlas’ book provides a quick and easy read to help people harness this power in all their relationships.