Praise: A Natural High

Dopamine—the feel-good, addictive, it’s a great-day-to-be-alive chemical produced by the brain that tells the rest of the body, “Don’t worry, be happy.”

It’s a biological fact that we crave it, and we’ll even look for it wherever we can get our hands on it. Why do you think so many people are addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc.? They are looking to access feelings of well-being, satisfaction and in all reality, happiness. Dopamine provides these feelings, if only for a short time.

Workers are after the same thing. How often do employees experience dopamine surges at the office? Unless they are a fighter pilot, a brain surgeon, or do a job that encounters regular bouts of obvious accomplishment on a consistent basis, dopamine highs can be few and far between. This lack of seeing accomplishment realized or recognized leads to the exact opposite of satisfaction—frustration. Dissatisfied employees.

There’s a little thing employers can do to help: Praise employees, and do it in a timely fashion—as in right after they do something good.

Managers, use our biological need for dopamine to your advantage! Let positive reinforcement and recognition engage and encourage your employees. To get the most out of this natural high, take the following bits of info and run with it:

Do it quick: Can you say “good job” three times in a row at lightning speed? It’s not exactly a tongue twister, so get used to saying it after an employee does something well. Don’t wait because the longer you wait, the less of an impact it has on the recipient.

Be specific: So, I know I used the example of “good job” in the point before this. That was just that, though—an example. Instead, be specific about what they did well. Spell it out for them. Be obvious as to what you liked.  Add quality to your compliment by quantifying it for the employee; this shows you’re paying attention and they will keep it in mind in projects moving forward.

Save the feedback: No one likes the work feedback. It basically screams: “Incoming! Alert! Constructive criticism is about to happen!” As much as you would like to say, “I liked it, but in the future…” or “Next time…”—don’t. Make praise and performance suggestions happen at two different times because if you include them in the same sentence, employees will only remember “next time.”

A little praise can go a long way. We all need little bouts of dopamine to survive—why not flourish in the workplace?