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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

The Power of Verbal Reward

By Rick Giombetti

“I’ve been here for 3 years and no one has ever given me positive feedback”

“I’m always told the bad news, what about things I do well?”

“I feel like they take me for granted around here”

“Does anyone appreciate what I do?”

Sound familiar?  Why don’t today’s managers use verbal reward when appropriate? There are lots of reasons, but none of them make sense in today’s world of leadership. As a manager, think back to Management 101: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory (true motivators vs. hygiene factors). Verbal reward is considered a true motivator. It costs nothing to provide; just a few moments of your time. It sounds like: “Thank you, I appreciate it, you’ve done a great job, you do it better than I do; and the team wouldn’t be effective as it is without you on it.” This kind of feedback builds confidence, self-esteem, commitment, loyalty and respect, while motivating staff to higher levels of performance. The lack of it breeds anger, frustration, low commitment, anxiety, stress, and ultimately, resentment. The transactional nature of management’s role today forces them to focus on bottom line results, but what is the real cost when we ignore the need for recognition/reward? When not provided, it causes poor productivity and eventual turnover. When this happens, we all lose, including good employees who have had enough of working for an autocratic, dictatorial, unappreciative, bottom-line junkie.

It’s time to jump into the 21st century of leadership, and recognize the critical importance of positive verbal reward as a way of turning on your workforce. Find someone today, and say something good about their performance. As Dirty Harry would say “Go ahead, make my day!”

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