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Praise in a Remote World

We’ve repeatedly heard the phrase: “People don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses.” This comment has been supported by loads of surveys over the course of time (although most of them tend to focus on the private sector, we’re confident that it’s true in governments at all levels.)

The value of good supervisors has probably never been more important than it is in 2022, with states and local governments yearning for qualified candidates for a host of positions. It’s a seller’s market, and the days in which there were dozens of applicants for every government job are gone – at least for now.

What’s more, at a time when remote work has become ever more common, the ways in which supervisors can build loyalty are changing. One way that good managers have always motivated employees is with praise. For some workers, praise is a narcotic, and that may not be healthy. But we’ve yet to run across anyone in any walk of life who didn’t enjoy being appreciated and hearing about it.

Yet, in a remote world, the quick “thanks for a good job,” in the hallway of City Hall may now require the time and thoughtfulness to send a quick e-mail or a text. Certainly, even when people were working on the same floor of the same building, some managers withheld their words of encouragement. Those who were more generous with their sentiments now have to take an extra step to communicate their kind words.

Back in 1936, Dale Carnegie, wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People, and his sentiments may seem dated and his language a big florid, but we believe he was right on target when he wrote “Praise is like sunlight to the warm human spirit; we cannot flower and grow without it. And yet, while most of us are only ready to apply to others the cold wind of criticism, we are somehow reluctant to give our fellow the warm sunshine of praise.”

So, here’s our unsolicited piece of advice to government managers: There’s no need to give false praise. Self-esteem should be earned. But, where there’s an opportunity to compliment someone who works for you – particularly someone who may be having difficulties with their work – take it. It will, we’re sure, pay off in loyalty, productivity and maybe – though we can’t prove it – fewer employees to replace when they walk out the door.


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