Unwarranted praise and Yorkshire weddings

We had some press coverage in the UK recently about the negative effects on children of unwarranted praise. It found that children who were given praise for average, below standard work, actually developed lower work standards.  In the TV interviews that accompanied the story it was clear that these children also tended to know that the praise was unwarranted and so it devalued the whole process.  This mirrored similar findings in business; that praise should only be given for significant achievements and by someone you respect.

We have observed some cultural differences between praise giving in the UK and USA. In the UK, praise needs to be given quite sparingly and only when warranted.  In fact, it can often be seen as sarcastic or a joke. In the US we observe a much higher level of giving of praise and expectation of receiving it.

Many years ago, during my corporate career, I was asked to introduce a training program to Europe from the USA on “itemized response”.  In this technique, we were trained to say three positive things before we gave any negative feedback.  I didn’t think this would translate very well into some of my European markets.  My American boss insisted, so I organized the pilot in the Netherlands where I was sure they would get plenty of feedback!

I vividly remember, after the American trainer introduced the process, the first question raised from one of the Dutch participants, “so when I want to tell someone the truth, first I have to think of three lies?” The rest of the program didn’t go well and the idea of exporting it to Europe quietly died.

I’m perfectly aware that my views may also be colored by my own cultural background. I am from the northern county of the UK, called Yorkshire, where people are famously undemonstrative.  There is an old story of a Yorkshire couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. When the wife asks why in 50 years since they were married her husband has never said that he loved her, he replies “I told you then, if the situation changes I will let you know.”

So as international managers, we may need to learn to moderate the level of praise we give and how we give it to different audiences.  I believe that sincerity, respect and giving feedback when it’s really warranted probably travel everywhere.

[banner heading=”Contact Us” link=”https://www.global-integration.com/contact-us/” icon=”coffee” anchor=”Find Out More” align=”left”]Find out more about how to make your teams more effective in today’s complex environment.[/banner]

Educate yourself further with a few more or our online insights:

30 years of experience learning with a range of world class clients

We work with a wide range of clients from global multinationals to recent start-ups. Our audiences span all levels, from CEOs to operational teams around the world.  Our tools and programs have been developed for diverse and demanding audiences.

View more of our clients
Two woman talking with a cup of coffee

Tailored training or off the shelf modules for your people development needs

We are deep content experts in remote, virtual and hybrid working, matrix management and agile & digital leadership. We are highly flexible in how we deliver our content and ideas. We can tailor content closely to your specific needs or deliver off the shelf bite sized modules based on our existing IP and 30 years of training experience.

For more about how we deliver our keynotes, workshops, live web seminars and online learning.

Discover our training solutions