A question for ya: When praise goes bad

I’ve been having a discussion recently with a group of people who believe that praising people in the workplace is bad. Among others, they believe that praising others is judgemental and makes the person receiving praise less confident and more stupid.

So here’s my question to you: Do you agree? When is praise bad? What’s the worst example of praise you’ve seen at work? Do you think praise at work is ultimately a good or a bad thing? Why?

7 thoughts on “A question for ya: When praise goes bad”

  1. I’ve worked with people whose praise is too over the top — I do some small thing for them and they email that I am the most awesome person ever. It’s kind of off-putting. What would they say if I actually did something huge and life-changing? There’s nowhere left to go.

  2. This is a very informative post. I had heard the notion that praise made people slack – the returning to the mean concept – but I had never heard that some found it judgmental. So thank you for passing that on.

    That, by the way, was praise. I doubt it will make your next post stupid.
    Phony praise is not helpful and neither is general praise that just says that Alex is a genius. But saying “Thank you, xxx was helpful” is only judgmental vis a vis my ignorance.

  3. I agree with JacobM. It seems to me that over the top praise has become the norm for just doing the job you were hired to do. This decreases the actual value of praise over time because you see that everyone gets an “atta’ boy/girl” just for being normal or average. Sometimes I think the person giving the praise is actually doing it for themselves. By calling attention to the work of someone else, they are also calling attention to themselves. It’s like using Reply All when sending a congratulatory email. The only person that really needs to receive the email is the person you are congratulating. When someone sends it by using Reply All, they are showing everyone how wonderful they are because they are supporting another person. It comes across as very self-serving to me.

  4. there is praise, and there is praise.
    Imo, there are a lot of ways to praise the wrong way. Sadly, if somebody experiences the wrong way all the time, he starts to think all praise is bad/judgemental/whatever…

  5. If you mean appraisals. . Then they make me cringe.. totally false setting and atmosphere. Just let me get on with my work..thank you very much.

  6. Good points, everyone.

    As for Dweck’s research, it’s worth noting that she’s researched children and I haven’t been able to find an article that shows the same effect in adults.

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