Withholding Praise on Purpose
Some leaders are stingy with their praise. On purpose.
They prefer to recognize and compliment people only for truly exceptional performances. They believe that reserving praise for extraordinary outcomes makes team members value the praise they do receive more highly.
They compound this belief with the idea that by withholding their praise on purpose, everyone works even harder to earn the compliments they so sparingly offer. As it turns out, this is a Machiavellian nightmare of untold proportions.
What happens next isn’t a surprise to those who understand the real reason leaders withhold praise. Beyond their theories of impact and work effort, leaders suppress praise and recognition to exert control over others.
They soon begin to withhold attention, information, and strategy. The more elements essential to performance they abstain from, the more team members become dependent on them.
The truth is, intentionally withholding praise doesn’t make people work harder or better. It just makes others feel needy, wondering what they have done that has robbed them of the praise they need to validate their efforts.
Withholding praise demoralizes team members and diminishes the goodwill necessary for healthy relationships. But it keeps people on edge, and dependent on the leader for what they need. Which is exactly the plan of a controlling leader.
You might recall that Niccolo Machiavelli said something like this, which later became famous: “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”
Similar to withholding praise, generating fear is all about controlling others. Not giving others what they need to feel good about themselves creates the doubt and insecurity necessary for control.
Good leaders eschew this path toward encouraging high performance. They understand that leadership is about giving away control, not hoarding it.
Funny how my “love language” not being words of affirmation has been my justification for years now.
I think that assessment has really sent me down a path that I should retreat from.
Do you have the tendency to justify how frequently you might withhold praise?