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The Two Types of Employee Praise that Really Matter — Perhaps Now More than Ever

We are more than a year into the pandemic, and the question is not if employees are experiencing stress, but whether they are managing to cope with so much pressure and chaos. Indeed, 7 out of 10 workers say that the pandemic has been the most stressful time of their career.

Obviously, there are no easy answers or quick fixes to this unprecedented situation. Even when employees are given the all-clear signal to return to the workplace — which will hopefully happen sometime in 2021 — the looming shadow of COVID-19 shadow will persist. Yes, we will get through this (one way or another). But no, things will never be quite the same ever again.


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Employees and team members are under stress due to Covid-19 — and need ongoing praise.


However, one thing that supervisors and managers can do — and frankly, should do — is to actively look for opportunities (or create them if necessary) to praise employees; not just because it is the ethical thing to do, but because it truly makes a difference. Research has found that praising employees boosts productivity, and 70% of employees feel that receiving authentic recognition is more meaningful than a boost in compensation.

With this in mind, it is also vital for supervisors and managers to consider that, despite the best of intentions, not all praise has the same impact. According to author and TED presenter Therese Huston PhD, there are two basic types of praise that have the most positive and lasting effect: we-strength and me-strength.


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We-strength praise

We-strength praise is the kind that recognizes an employee’s ability to enhance, elevate and drive the team forward. Examples include:


  • “Your presentation skills are outstanding, and play a key role in helping us attract and retain top-tier clients.”

  • “You’re such an effective listener, and it really helps us address and avoid conflict on the team.”

  • “You’re always so organized, that no matter how chaotic things get around here, we can count on you to know what’s going on.”

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Even remote workers need a little we-praise and me-praise!

Me-strength praise

Me-strength praise is the kind that energizes and inspires an employee and lets them know that their efforts are valued and important. Examples include:

  • “Your ability to concentrate and stay focused is legendary. Keep it up!”

  • “Your design work on the proposal was fantastic. I really appreciate it.”

  • “Thanks for always being so punctual, I appreciate your consideration.”


There can be an overlap between we-strength praise and me-strength praise. For example, a well-designed proposal benefits everyone on the team. However, what separates the two is that me-strengths are meant to highlight contributions that employees find extremely rewarding and enjoyable — even if those contributions are complex and challenging — on a personal level. In this light, once supervisors and managers grasp the me-strengths for each employee, they should strive to create opportunities for those same strengths to be expressed. For example, if Joe is energized by designing proposals, then the more chances he is given to do this, the more engaged — and less stressed — he will be.


The Bottom Line


After an unbelievably difficult year, and with many more challenges still ahead, supervisors and managers should put this wisdom into action. No, praise is not a panacea that solves all workforce problems. But it does go a long way to uplifting employees, and ultimately strengthening organizations.

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