#5 Blowing Smoke Is Stupid: False Praise Doesn't Work

In the good ol’ days people really did blow smoke up other peoples asses. They would insert this contraption into the rear end of a drowning victim. Then light a fine cigar and blow the smoke up the persons ass. The drowning victim would then come back to life. As you’ve guessed, the procedure was 100% not effective.


Same goes for the smoke you blow up your employees asses through insincere praise.  But at least the perverts that were using this device were working with a corpse.  Your actions are worse.  You're doing it to a live functioning human being. Someone that just wants to do great work for your company. 

The research behind this opinion comes from our favorite psychologist Frederick Herzberg. In this case, Herzberg looked deeply into the effects of employee RECOGNITION. He started with a simple definition. Recognition is some act of notice, praise or blame, handed out by pretty much anyone.  So recognition could be as simple as an attaboy from the person in the next cubicle.

And what he found is not a surprise. Lack of recognition had a short term negative effect on attitude. “No one gives you a pat on the back around here” was a common piece of feedback.  So crank up the insincere, over the top praise, right? Tell everyone how amazing they are even when they’re doing average work.  

Well don’t light that fat cuban just yet. Herzberg also found some other interesting stuff. People do love recognition, but only when they do something of real value. They do not want a pat on the back for fogging a mirror. They see through it and so do their peers. False praise, blowing smoke up their ass, is a demotivator.

 So only praise real achievement - or don't even do that.

Herzberg found that achievement alone was a long term motivator - even without the praise.  Yes,  people will complain that "nobody gives us a pat on the back around here". But they'll still be long term motivated by their achievement alone. So relax a bit.  It's not the end of the world if you miss a "pat on the back" moment. 

I’m a recovering engineer and love equations.  So in my mind it looks like this.

NON Achievement + Recognition = DeMotivation

Real Achievement + Zero Recognition = Some Motivation 

Real Achievement + Sincere Recognition = Max  Motivation

So now you know a sure fire way to demotivate someone - false praise. And you understand one of Herzberg’s key motivators - recognizing real achievement.

Next time we’ll dive deeper into the rest of the motivators.


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