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Do People Need Praise Every Time They Do A Good Job?

No. If you recognized good performance every time someone did something right, you’d have no time to do anything else, and they would get bored by it.

The key is to make the recognition you provide commensurate with the quality of the job that was done. As the person’s skills increase, the quality of job performance must also increase before recognition follows.

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Consider one of the most elementary of human behaviors: walking. The parents of an infant make a major production over encouraging their baby to walk. When the baby takes his very first step, the parents celebrate the occasion, haul out the video camera, and shower the baby with kisses and hugs. Kisses and hugs from Mom and Dad are powerful reinforcers when you’re twelve months old. The baby learns that all he has to do is take a wobbly step or two, and the love starts flowing.

But quickly, Mom and Dad raise the stakes. Just one baby step isn’t enough to bring on the love fest. Now Junior has to walk all the way across the room. But when he does, the reinforcement is there again.

Gradually the child learns to walk. Reinforcement/recognition is the powerful motivator behind the child’s acquisition and use of the new skill. But once he’s got it, he’s going to have to execute a pas de deux or run a hundred-yard dash in nine flat to get any further reinforcement for his walking ability.

The message? Use reinforcement a lot when someone is learning a new job or acquiring an unfamiliar skill. Use a lot more when someone does something remarkably well. But taper off the recognition once the skill has been acquired—you don’t really expect to be praised for tying your own shoes anymore, do you?