Episode 95: Why Do So Many Managers Avoid Giving Praise?

The 90th Percentile: An Unconventional Leadership Podcast

Published: November 16, 2022


Why do managers avoid giving praise? When talking with managers about giving feedback, we often hear comments such as, “I did not sleep the night before,” “I just wanted to get it over quickly,” “My hands were sweating, and I was nervous,” and “They don’t pay me enough to do this job.” Because of this anxiety, we find that some managers resist giving their direct reports any critical feedback. But what’s worse than that is that we discovered a larger problem than the lack of corrective feedback because even more managers avoid praising. This podcast episode explains the data behind why managers are avoiding praise, what this is doing to individuals and organizations, and how to make a course correction.

Key Points

  • 37% of the people who took our self-assessment conceded that they don’t give positive reinforcement.
  • Our research suggests that colleagues place great emphasis on receiving positive feedback – and that it colors their relationship with one another even more than negative feedback.
  • In a survey of 7,631 people, we asked whether they believed that giving negative feedback was stressful or difficult, and 44% agreed.
  • We asked a different group of 7,808 people to conduct a self-assessment, and 21% admitted that they avoid giving negative feedback.
  • Whether the manager gave negative feedback did not make a big difference — unless the leader avoided giving positive feedback. This was also true when you looked only at the ratings of direct reports.
  • It’s OK if it’s brief – it just needs to be specific, rather than a general remark of “good job,” and ideally occurs soon after the praise-worthy incident. Of course, it’s also best when it’s sincere and heartfelt.

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Why Do So Many Managers Avoid Giving Praise?– Harvard Bsuiness Review Article by Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman