Leadership Nudge® 395 – Prize, Don’t Praise admin August 10, 2022

Leadership Nudge® 395 – Prize, Don’t Praise

Praise is part of the manipulative strategy of bosses. Leaders dealing with adults observe not evaluate, and prize not praise. Here, David explains the difference and why it matters.

Hey, we put out a post recently where we talked about praise being a manipulation, a manipulative tool that bosses use to control people and to exert authority over them and to put themselves in a superior evaluative role. And you don’t want to do that. And it got a bunch of comments.  

But here’s the deal. When we praise, so the “traditional” what I mean by praise is – “Oh, I’m so proud of you for doing this” . . . “Mommy’s so proud” . . . “Daddy’s so proud” . . .  “the boss is so proud of” . . . “I’m proud.” 

So what’s happening is I’m taking the motivation, the good feelings from . . . they’re not being derived from completing the work itself, but they’re being transferred to “Oh, making mommy/daddy/the boss happy.” That’s the source of good feelings. And once I externalize it like that, it becomes an extrinsic motivator, not intrinsic. So now I can use it as a manipulative tool to coerce and control people, which is why bosses do it.  

Now, it’s often well-meaning. We say, “Oh, this is good work, I want to celebrate.” But celebrate “with” not “for” the person. And don’t appropriate the good feelings. They’re not your good feelings, you didn’t do the work, the team did the work.  

So I would say something like, “Oh, I’m so happy for you that the product looks so great” . . . or “The client is super happy, you guys must be really jazzed.” Something like that. But remove yourself from sort of judge, jury and evaluator. And don’t make it about them making you happy. Make it about them gaining satisfaction from the work and making the clients happy.  

If you got good examples of those kinds of phrases, please add them below. Because there’s a paucity of them even in my own head. So I love to see what you guys say in terms of what is good, prizing and celebrating “with” as opposed to expropriating the good feelings. 

I’m David Marquet. That’s your Leadership Nudge.