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Deliver Praise the Right Way

Several of my blog posts over the past months have touched on the urgent need for employee recognition and how rewarding your employees for a job well done ultimately helps companies with employee engagement and retention.  However, HOW a company or manager GOES ABOUT RECOGNIZING their employees is important as well – and can backfire if not done properly.

So what are some effective ways to communicate employee praise?  I recently read a great article by Susan Snipes in Human Resources Today that listed a number of different types of communication and their pros and cons.  Here is a summary:

In-Person Praise

 This type of praise is face-to-face and best if done before one’s peers. 

Pros: Thanking in-person has the value of the face-to-face interaction.  It is often quicker and more effective than written communication and can convey more sincerity.

Cons:  Because there is no transfer of a tangible item, there is no record of the “transaction.”  Thus this kind of praise can be temporary.


An informal email note best delivered shortly after the act or project is complete.  These can be sent to an individual or a group completing a project.

Pros:  An email is less formal than a recognition letter, but more formal that a quick simple face-to-face “thank-you.”  An email can include more specifics but still be delivered in a timely fashion.

Cons:  It is hard to express emotion and sincerity in an email.  It can also seem overly formal for something that would be better as an informal thanks.

Informal Handwritten Note

A hard copy note given by a manager or direct supervisor.

Pros:  A hard copy note card shows a higher level of sincerity (you had to take the time to get the card and write it out) and gives the recipient something tangible to remind them later of your gratitude for their achievement.

Cons:  Because it takes more time, for managers with large teams it might be too daunting an undertaking. 

Formal Letter of Appreciation

A longer, more formal letter, often given by top management vs. a direct supervisor.

Pros:  If written well, they show care and consideration, and are formal and fitting for certain specific achievements.  They should include details and what the accomplishments means to the organization.

Cons:  It takes time to write them well and they may be too formal for the company culture or the situation.  If not written well, they can backfire and seem “cookie-cutter” and insincere.

Collaborative Platforms

Many companies have started using tools like Slack, Bonusly and other collaborative work tools to communicate. 

Pros:  These platforms allow anyone in the company to quickly and easily communicate public praise to someone or a group across the company.

Cons:  Because they are “instant messages” the messages may not be as thought out as other communication forms.  This may also be too informal for what is being praised.  In addition, some companies (such as manufacturing companies) may have employees without regular access to computers.

Whatever form of communication you choose, it should be done with care.  Praise should be given in a timely fashion and on a frequent & consistent basis.  Include specifics and be appropriate for your company culture and the recipient’s individual preferences (i.e. consider if they are shy and do not want public recognition). 

What forms of communication does your company use to praise employees for a job well done?

By Ann Condon, Communications Manager