What’s the right praise-to-reprimand ratio in the workplace?

‘Catching people doing something right’ is one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learnt. At home, at work, even when I’m buying my lunch, wherever I am, if I can notice someone doing something special and mention it we will both feel happier.

The concept of catching people doing something right comes from one of my favourite little books, The One Minute Manager. Ever since reading the book, I’ve been using my own version of ‘one minute praisings’ and ‘one minute reprimands’.

At work, I’ve always thought that a 2:1 ratio of praise to reprimand was about right. In fact, I learnt this from Cameron Herold, who used to remind me that it was all about “two strokes for one poke”.

In the last few weeks I’ve been rethinking this ratio of praise to reprimand. What got me thinking was a presentation from Irene Lee of e-web Marketing (4th Best Place to Work in Australia for 2012) at the National Employer of Choice Conference. According to Irene, the very best results at work are achieved when we use a 5:1 ratio of praise to reprimand. That’s five praises for every reprimand.

The reason for a higher ratio is that most people remember reprimands much longer than they remember praise. Therefore, to create a positive environment where everyone feels productive and appreciated there needs to be five times as much praise.

What do you think your current ratio of praise to reprimand is?

I reckon my ratio is probably around 3-4:1 at the moment. But, despite the research, maybe I should shoot for a 10:1 ratio? I do really love praising people! With a 10:1 ratio, when I did reprimand, perhaps it would be a much stronger message than at 5:1?

Whatever the research reveals, it’s important to choose a ratio that works for you and your team. How do you go about praise and reprimand? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Tristan White is a husband to Kimberley and a dad to little Alexandra. He’s a qualified physiotherapist, ironman triathlete, blogger and CEO of The Physio Co – Australia’s eighth Best Place to Work. His passion is to build a strong family and workplace culture and share what he learns with the world. Tristan’s Culture is Everything blog was ranked by SmartCompany as one of Australia’s 25 Best Business Blogs in 2011.



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