The Affirmation Minefield

All of us want to be affirmed. We want others to acknowledge that our work and contributions are worthy and useful. However, not all affirmations have the same impact. If presented haphazardly, even a well-intended affirmation could make someone feel unappreciated and invisible. Instead of encouraging continued effort, the affirmation can actually demotivate someone.

Here are a few “watch out” tips:

  • Don’t just say, “Great Job.” Broad generalized statements may come across as meaningless platitudes. Be specific in your acknowledgements. Show your team that you have observed them in action and you believe in their capabilities.
  • Never praise your team members in the same way. Affirmations are not a “one size fits all” approach. Learn what drives each person uniquely.
  • Before affirming someone, determine how the person wants and needs to be recognized. Your team members will respond differently to your acknowledgement. Some will prefer public praise and others will prefer one-on-one praise.
  • Don’t just acknowledge what is important to you. Listen carefully to cues in language and behavior to recognize what is truly important to them. Tie the affirmation to the individual’s core values for the most impact.

Most of us have experienced at some time in our career that favorite boss who knew just how to affirm and challenge us. This is the boss you would walk through walls for. When leaders learn how to optimally affirm individuals, it encourages growth, motivation, and sustained effort. Be the kind of boss your team will walk through walls for.


About the Author

Carolyn Lowstuter
Executive Vice President, Robertson Lowstuter, Inc.

As one of the firm’s Principals with a P&L background in consultancy, Carolyn has coached across diverse industries. She works with multi-functional C-Suite and senior leaders and their teams. Read Full Bio


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Warren Anderson

    Thanks Carolyn. I had not given much thought to this aspect of affirmations.

  2. John R Clarey


    You are special. Your wisdom comes through not only here but in the many dealings I have had with you during the years I have known you.


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