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  • Tamar Balkin

Can Praise Be Considered A Secret Weapon In Change Management?


“Positive leadership focuses on how to get people to fulfil their potential and develop their inner qualities, with an emphasis on good, euphoria, and achievement of excellence”

Yan, Zhang, Akhtar, and Liang


What are the benefits of recognising good behaviour?

"Recognition for good work releases dopamine in the brain, which creates feelings of pride and pleasure. Better yet, that dopamine hit cements the knowledge that more of that behaviour will create more praise, resulting in another dopamine drench, and so on. This is why positive reinforcement works so well."

Jennifer Robison

Researchers have found that positive leadership can increase employees' psychological capital and empowerment and enhance levels of trust.

Praise, delegation, empowerment, or acknowledgement of work done has a positive impact on employee performance in the short and long term. When a manager acknowledges and rewards good performance, it can make employees feel valued and increase their sense of commitment to the company, ultimately leading to increased discretionary effort and productivity.

Learning accompanied by positive feelings and associations is more likely to be remembered. Researchers have found that praise activates one of the reward areas in the brain, because of this activation praise improves the consolidation of new information that occurs during sleep. Recognition is a useful reminder of the preferred behaviour. Providing praise is an opportunity to show true empathy, and acknowledge that change is difficult. Researchers have found that 79 percent of employees who resigned from their jobs reported that the lack of appreciation is the main reason for quitting. Amongst employees with high levels of enthusiasm, 94.4% responded that their managers recognised their competence.

How should you do it?


"Great managers are extremely effective in figuring out the best form of praise for each person"



“You should have seen the dazed look on his face when I told Bill that I really appreciated his polite behaviour and emotional regulation in a particularly controversial meeting with an important stakeholder. When we spoke, we were walking along the street together after the meeting. I reckon it took him about two blocks for the smile to emerge on his face, you could see the penny begin to drop. It is baby steps but I felt pretty good too."

Coaching client

Why don’t leaders provide sufficient praise?

  • They don’t think they need to thank people for doing their jobs.

  • Afraid of conflict or jealousy.

  • Don’t know what their staff are actually doing in enough detail.

  • Aren’t aware of the behaviours employees are trying to improve.

  • Not actually sure what words to use.

  • Worried that praise means ignoring bad behaviour.

  • Being impatient and failing to appreciate the incremental advancements or improvements that have been made.

  • The average leader spends more time looking for reasons why things are not working (the negative issues) than they are looking for all the reasons why things are going well.

A few words of caution:

Whilst positive leadership can reduce employees’ deviant behaviour and improve employees’ job satisfaction and well-being, unacceptable behaviour and high levels of incivility should never be tolerated. If delivered incorrectly praise will cause more harm than good, be mindful that private acknowledgement may be more appropriate, and patronising comments will decrease motivation.

Final thoughts


“Standing in the hall of fame (yeah) And the world's gonna know your name (yeah) 'Cause you burn with the brightest flame (yeah) And the world's gonna know your name (yeah) And you'll be on the walls of the hall of fame”

Hall of Fame by The Script (Click here for the song)


Remember grandiose tokenistic reward programs are never effective. Yet regular appropriate praise has the dual benefit of changing behaviour and being a rather pleasurable pastime.

Please click here if you would like to read my past blogs.


References: more available on request,learn%20and%20to%20perform%20better. Shafir, E., Simonson, I. and Tversky, A. (1993). Reason-based choice. Cognition, 49(1-2), pp.11–36. Yan, Y., Zhang, J., Akhtar, M.N. and Liang, S. (2021). Positive leadership and employee engagement: The roles of state positive affect and individualism-collectivism. Current Psychology. doi:

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