Everyone knows praise is an important part of workplace feedback, but when you’re a manager, your praise to a direct report carries an extra special weight. But giving praise too often makes it lose its specialness. Plus, every manager and direct report relationship is different. But there are key moments when a manager’s praise can make a huge difference to the employee’s growth and development.
Here are a few of those key moments, your responsibilities as a manager in that moment, and what your praise will mean to your direct reports.
1. When they get hired and when they’re onboarding
An employee’s first few weeks are crucial to their understanding of the company culture, the expectations of the job, and their future performance.
Your job as a manager here is to give them the tools to succeed, a clear understanding of your expectations for them in this role, and an inroad into the company culture.
Giving them praise in this moment is a means to let them know they’re on the right track and they’re a welcome addition to the them.
Sample scripts: “You’re doing great.” “We’re so glad you’re here!” “Thanks for taking over these million little things….”
2. When they get promoted
When your employee finally gets elevated into a position that they've worked hard to achieve, it's important to celebrate that big career move.
Your job as a manager here is to support them as they take on more responsibilities, new challenges, and a new point of view at the company.
Giving them praise at this moment means that you believe they deserve this promotion.
Sample script: “This is long overdue! Thanks to your work in x and y, I know you’ll be great at this.”
3. When they go out of their comfort zone
Your employee has been trying on a new role, took on new responsibilities, built a process from scratch, or are learned a new skill that will benefit them in the long run. Cheering them on taking big chances and succeeding will go a long way.
Your job as a manager here is to get them to keep going out of their comfort zone and challenging themselves so they can grow as an employee.
Giving them praise at this moment means you want them to know you have their back.
Sample script: “I saw X working on Y and I was really delighted to see how hard they were working on something new. You’re doing great. Remember, it’s a process. Keep going!”
4. After a big launch that they helmed
Even if it’s something your team has been working on for a while, they were heading up a major project, and you want to show them their leadership helped you and the company.
Your job as a manager here is to call out their work on the project.
Give them praise in this moment means you know they led a major initiative, and even if it’s their job.
Sample script: “I know that was a lot of work and a lot of little details to juggle at once. You did a great job, and we really appreciate it.”
5. When they go above and beyond expectations
They took a task or project and went above and beyond the call of duty, in a way you were delighted and surprised by.
Your job as a manager here is to show that you noticed that they did more than you expected of them, and celebrate that. People have to know that you’re in just as much awe of your direct report as they are.
Give them praise in this moment means you know specifically they went above and beyond, and you want to acknowledge that, while also signalling you don’t expect these results every time. The goal posts don’t move.
Sample script: “X went above and beyond expectations on project Y, and I’m beyond impressed!”
6. When they have an anniversary at the company
When an employee hits a major milestone of working at a company for one or more years, you as their manager should be the first person to acknowledge and celebrate that moment.
Your job as a manager here is retention! You acknowledge this anniversary to hopefully keep them on for another year.
Give them praise in this moment means you appreciate them and want to keep working with them.
Sample script: “X has been a great addition to our team. They were imperative in projects A, B, and C. I was telling so-and-so a specific compliment about X…” [A paragraph is good here — you know this is coming up, so take the time to work on it beforehand. Your employee will be able to tell the effort you put into it, and will appreciate the extra mile.]
7. When they are trying something new or risky in front of a lot of people
Maybe this is your employee’s first time doing a presentation, leading a webinar, or managing more people. Let them know you’re proud that they represented themselves and your team well.
Your job as a manager here is to help them feel good about being a great public representative of the team. Also, it’s hard to judge how other people are seeing you when you have an audience, so you have to give them an idea of what the audience is seeing. Praise them in the form of observations.
Give them praise in this moment means you’re paying attention, and they know their work is being noticed.
Sample scripts: “You took your new responsibilities/this project/this presentation and hit the ground running. The effort you put into this is clear.” “You make this look effortless, but I know how much work you’ve been putting in, day after day, specifically in X, Y, and Z.”