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Get Your Staff Addicted to Their Work

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If you follow my columns, you know that I often speak of the positive effects of praise and recognition; a powerful motivator of people. People crave praise and recognition for their work, especially for a job well done.

When we receive praise, we feel good—so good in fact, that we can’t wait to be praised again. This is not just a learned behavioral trait, it’s actually part of our genetic makeup. So the question is, could employees actually become addicted to the positive effects of praise and recognition? You bet! And that’s a good thing.

In a healthy environment where people are praised, recognized and feel protected, the brain releases chemicals that help lift our spirits and improve our moods, giving us the feelings of deep satisfaction and pleasure.

Over time, the continuous flow of these chemicals helps to form a strong bond within the group and with the leader. The stronger the emotional bond, the happier and more productive the group becomes. Essentially, people within the group feel good about being part of the team. A healthy environment also brings out the best in people. When an organization is strongly held together, greater success can be achieved. One of the primary reasons for a healthy workplace is lots of praise and recognition.

Now let’s take a look at an unhealthy workplace, an environment void of team spirit. It’s where the employees feel disengaged and isolated from each other and from their boss. This leads to negativity and despair, which results in unhappy employees and feelings of isolation. Where there is no team spirit, the group cannot function in unity, and will never reach its production potential. While there are many reasons for an unhealthy workplace, one of the main reasons is lack of praise and recognition.

Praise rewards us on an emotional level. It lets us know that what we do in the workplace matters. Praise sends the message that we are appreciated and should feel good about who we are and what we do. But, we need to be careful when giving out praise. Praise needs to be genuine, specific and warranted. Shop owners shouldn’t hand out praise without merit, or the praise will have little meaning. Also, genuine and warranted praise is enough. Attaching a monetary reward with praise may diminish the positive effects. It may also be viewed as a form of bribery to continue a particular behavior. When people do the things for the right reasons and receive a pat on the back for it, the feelings that person has resonate from the heart. You can’t buy that with money.

“Get those emotional feelings flowing through their veins. Your employee will feel great, and you will too.”
—Joe Marconi, owner, Osceola Garage

You might be asking at this point, “But what about when things go wrong?” Well, you can’t ignore that either. People need feedback on their work and on their progress—good and bad.

Staff GraphicReprimands, like praise, need to be brought to the attention of the employee as soon as a problem occurs. But too many reprimands without enough praise will have a negative effect. You stand a much better chance of correcting behavioral issues or correcting mistakes when the employee is in a strong emotional state, which happens with praise and recognition.

The point is, the more often you praise, the more the employee will listen when things go wrong. People have an emotional bank account. And like a financial bank account, you have to make enough deposits first, before you can begin to withdraw. So, first fill up someone’s emotional bank with enough praise, before you make any withdrawals with reprimands. This is why we need to be careful that the praise is specific and clearly identifies the reason for the praise.

So, the next time you see your service advisor helping an elderly lady to her car, or a technician helping another tech on a tough job, bring the employee into your office and give that person a big pat on the back. Get those emotional feelings flowing through their veins. Your employee will feel great, and you will too.

I need to warn you, praise can create noticeable behavioral changes in your staff. They will begin to act in a particular way, repeating the things they were praised for. They will look to you for more praise and recognition. Should you promote such an addiction? You bet! And that’s a good thing!


Joe Marconi has more than three decades of experience in the automotive repair industry. He is the owner of Osceola Garage in Baldwin Place, N.Y., a business development coach for Elite Worldwide and co-founder of autoshopowner.com. Reach him at j.marconi@eliteworldwidestore.com.

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