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Published: Wednesday January 30, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Monday April 22, 2013 MYT 2:52:10 PM

Recognition is the key to gaining loyalty, especially from Generation Y and Z

“LENG lui, leng lui...! Come come, you’ll like this!” booms the pasar malam man while gesturing grandly at his goods.

Regardless of whether you’re in the prime of your youth or a 60-year-old grandma, you’ll still be a leng lui (pretty girl) in his eyes.

Flattery, it seems, does not discriminate; especially when it comes to business!

In Malaysia, we call people who clearly aren’t the boss “boss!” because it sounds a lot nicer than “oi!”. Besides, you want them to bring you your teh tarik without any delay.

When someone calls you “leng lui” or “leng chai”, you know that in one way or another, they’re either trying to sell you something or get you on their side.

We sheepishly know that these forms of flattery will not be taken seriously nor get us very far, but we use them and put up with them anyway, almost like it’s part of a culture we find endearing.

Many would say flattery is a form of manipulation, where you are just validating what you believe the person already thinks of themselves or say something you don’t mean or believe in for the purpose of getting what you want.

Praise, on the other end, is a sincere expression of what you genuinely think or feel. In a way, both are cousins with similar end goals — to make someone feel important, appreciated, validated or special.

Making someone feel good is one of the most powerful tools we have to encourage, motivate and inspire. When used positively, it can spur people to believe in themselves and achieve extraordinary things.

I’ve been brought up by praise, not punishment. Whenever I did something right, my mum was generous with her praise and it would feel so good that I wanted to keep them coming.

Also, receiving praises meant that I knew I was going in the right direction. If there were only harsh words and punishments, I would definitely know what I was doing wrong but how would I know what I was doing right?

In the Asian culture, some are afraid that giving praise can result in cockiness or arrogance, therefore they try not to bring up too much of the good stuff.

Yet, what’s strange is that these same folks would not be as hesitant giving criticisms or disapprovals. Does it mean that they believe reproach would make a person nicer and more motivated?

In the workplace, some bosses are afraid of giving praise for fear that their employees will think they’re good and therefore ask for higher pay.

Their biggest fear:

The boss: “Good job, Jack!”

Jack: “So you know I’m good, huh? Faster, pay me more!”

Some bosses don’t give praises because their bosses never praised them, so they deem it not necessary. Besides, to them, being professional means that one should do their job well regardless of praise.

In a big way, giving praise means taking a responsibility and many are afraid, unwilling or incapable of doing so.

When you praise a child, you’re trying to encourage them to do more of the same in the future. Similarly, when they do something wrong, you will also need to explain to them the whys, hows and whats so that they can avoid repeating it.

Yelling at someone takes two seconds, but praise and teaching takes a whole lot of time, effort and patience.

In the workplace, a boss tells you what to do. That takes a minimum amount of time and effort.

A leader or mentor understands that praise doesn’t just stop at saying, “good job” because it also requires guiding employees through the things they aren’t doing right or helping them through the difficulties they are facing.

Giving praise means opening the doors and letting people know you will give your time and attention to help.

In his article for Forbes on the 10 Reasons Your Top Talent Will Leave You, Mike Myatt stated that it’s because “more than 70% don’t feel appreciated or valued by their employer.”

“Employees who voluntarily leave generally do so out of some type of perceived disconnect with leadership,” wrote the CEO Coach and author of Leadership Matters… The CEO Survival Manual.

Richard Archer, managing partner of Archer Bahari, a headhunting firm that proactively identifies skilled professionals and companies, shares the same sentiment.

“Employees need to know what they’re contributing to. If they don’t know how the company is doing or where the company is going, even the best employees will lose their sense of purpose,” said Archer during an interview on Talk of the Town on Capital FM 88.9.

Archer also doesn’t believe in bad hires. “There are no such thing as bad hires, only bad leaders.”

Myatt, in his article, also wrote “If you fail to lead, your talent will seek leadership elsewhere. Failing to recognise the contribution of others is not only arrogant and disingenuous, but it’s also just as good as asking them to leave.”

It’s interesting how both men seem to use the term ‘leader’ and not ‘boss’. Both too, are convinced that recognition and appreciation is key to developing talents.

Archer, in a conversation with my co-host and I off the air, said that “In Malaysia, the main reason talents leave is because of the lack of recognition.

“The most successful companies are the ones with transparency, where even the janitor has met the CEO,” he told us.

Myatt wrote, “Sure, people come to work for a paycheque, but that’s not the only reason. In fact, many studies show it’s not even the most important reason. If you fail to care about people at a human level, at an emotional level, they’ll eventually leave you regardless of how much you pay them.”

In the past, this may not hold true. These days, however, I am convinced that the key to gaining the loyalty of Generation Y and Z is acknowledge their contributions.

You may argue that it is only pandering to their egos, but credit is only given where credit is due. Praise is different from flattery.

If someone is contributing, the question to ask isn’t why you should acknowledge it. It is why not?

Regardless of whether it’s this century or the last, nobody likes to feel insignificant.

If all it takes is showing appreciation and acknowledgement to bring the best out in someone, why not do it?

Giving praise costs nothing monetary wise, but it takes a great leader and mentor to accept the responsibilities that comes with it.

Tags / Keywords: Community, News, Opinion, Xandria Ooi, Sights Sounds column

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