In today’s corporate world, we are generally good at singing our own praises. In fact, this is not just another corporate habit; it is turning out to be a dominant trait of many managers. We like to highlight our achievements, and many of us are pretty good at it. Look at the tens of thousands of social media posts all around us (including some of my own), which showcase the winning of some award or recognition. Since there is no dearth of such awards, the potential for self-adulation is infinite.
What’s more, many of us also take the time to recognise members of our respective teams, because we believe that this is the right thing to do, and it also helps reinforce good work and morale. All this is important. Our organisations should know what we have been up to, particularly the positive aspects and notable successes. Recognition of our team members for genuine achievements, however small or big they are, helps boost confidence, even productivity. It is a behaviour that deserves reinforcement.
But how often do we recognise and salute people who are outside our teams or who work in other companies, for accomplishments that we truly admire? How often do we salute organisations and brands other than our own for brilliant work that we secretly wish we had done ourselves?
The answer is, rarely.
How many posts or blogs have you seen marking a milestone or a great success achieved by another company, or by a peer who you may regard as your professional rival?
Great sportspersons and artistes do this sometimes but, unfortunately, this has not been the way of the corporate world.
While I have not researched the underlying reasons, there is bound to be strong rationale behind this behaviour, including our own ego, professional or personal jealousy, and even a perception that this may not quite be the right thing to do.
Serving a reality check
There are many reasons occasionally praising others, particularly for notable achievements and recognitions, is a good and useful practice to follow.
Firstly, it opens up our mind to the fact that there are people out there doing great things. This breaks insular thinking and delivers a reality check on the inflated opinion that many of us may carry about ourselves.
Such a reality check can be a great trigger for self-improvement, and is also a wonderful starting point for cultivating true humility.
Recognising or saluting a competitor for any specific and significant success is also a great way of rising above professional jealousy or rivalry to acknowledge truly outstanding work.
When we do this, it also helps us break other biases that we may hold about that particular person or company. And when we break such biases, we become far more open to studying their methods and what has contributed to their successes.
Praising another person is also a sign of our own self-assurance. Individuals who are confident in their own capabilities and talents are far more likely to call out the achievements of others.
On the other hand, our inability or unwillingness to acknowledge successes of others is often a reflection of our own insecurities.
I would also hypothesise that, provided we are reasonably good at what we do, we can grow in confidence by saluting superb work done by other people. The very act enhances how positively we feel about ourselves.
Offering genuine praise to a colleague or a friend for an achievement is also seen as a mark of respect for their capabilities, and a sign that you are choosing to recognise their strengths over their weaknesses. This can potentially set off a virtuous cycle of mutual respect, as your colleague also chooses to reciprocate and recognise your own good work, thus building a source of continuing motivation for both of you, as you pursue new goals.
Growing your network
This is also a good way of growing your network of friends in your industry. The person whose achievement you have highlighted is quite likely to become positively disposed towards you. The act of praising someone else, if it is authentic, is always seen as a gracious gesture, and most of us like to associate with people who are graceful. If, on the other hand, you are viewed as a person who is always talking exclusively about his or her own glorious deeds, it is unlikely that you will gain too many friends who are keen to be part of your network.
How to praise
Recognising another team in your own company or a person who works in a different group or even a competitor can take many forms. Sometimes, a simple word of congratulations in the office corridor or on the sidelines of an industry conference is all that is required. At other times, a nice message or a congratulatory email can provide a nice touch. There may be the occasional moment when you wish to publicly praise the person or the organisation during a team meeting, a Town Hall or in a social media post. In my own experience, the right format depends on the context and the nature of the achievement that you are calling out.
Whichever format and occasion you choose, do think about the central message of this piece—praising others is good for you.
Harish Bhat works with the Tata group. He would like to acknowledge the thoughtful inputs he has received for this column from colleague Suparna Mitra of Titan, who thinks deeply about how to build better workplaces and teams.