I am sure that anyone who has been working in the student affairs field for any length of time will tell you that praise is very important and the quantity and quality of the praise you give to employees will affect the quantity and quality of the work that they do.
When I was a student leader at the College of Saint Rose (Albany, NY) I enjoyed getting praise for a job well done. When I became a residence hall director, I was very conscious of my efforts to praise my student staff and make sure that they knew I appreciated all that they did. Now, as an assistant director I always try to let the residence hall directors on our staff know how much they are appreciated or when they have done a good job. I have seen first hand how the right amount of praise can really get staff (student or professional) to take on new challenges, feel positive about the department and the work that needs to be done.
However, I have noticed that praise seems to only flow one-way, down. When was the last time any of us have given praise for a job well done to those who supervise us, or to those who supervise our supervisor? Usually, I notice that whenever we talk about those above us in the hierarchy it is to criticize or complain.
RAs like to complain about the demands put on them by the hall directors, hall directors criticize decisions made by their supervisor, assistant or area directors criticize the director, etc. If we don’t criticize of complain, then usually we say nothing.
Which brings me to the reason I am writing this article. If praise is such a good thing why do we only save it for those we supervise? Why don’t we share it with all of the members of our staff? With all the benefits that can result from the proper use of praise it should really be a two-way street.
I know that since I have begun working in this position I don’t let what my supervisee’s say drive me to do a good job. My drive is intrinsic and I think that is something we try to instill in those we supervise. Do the right thing because it is the right thing not because you hope someone will praise you and give you rewards.
But, I have to tell you one day I had a residence hall director out of the blue, come into my office and say that they thought I was doing a great job and they were glad I was part of the team. From that point on my day was made. It felt good. And it serves as a reminder why I do what I do. I still get my share of complaints or criticism because of decisions I need to make or expectations I may have, but that little bit of praise helps even it all out.
So, for those of you who are reading this keep this in mind. Whether you are a residence hall director, director, etc., as you give out praise to those you supervise, don’t forget to give out some well-deserved praise to those who may supervise you, or run the department, or run the school. Two-way praise, just like communication provides a much more enjoyable trip to wherever we are headed.
Submitted by James H. Manley, Jr., Assistant Director, Residential Services, SUNY Cortland