Don’t Ration the Praise! Are You Giving Your Employees 4:1?

By Caroline Berrios, Director of Customer Relations for Doodle Bugs! Children’s Centers


Caroline Berrios, Director of Customer Relations for Doodle Bugs! Children’s Centers

In early childhood education, we focus a lot of our time and attention on children’s social-emotional development. Experts agree that, in order to be successful and self-assured, children need at least four positive interactions to balance the impact of every negative interaction or correction. It makes sense that adults also need that 4:1 ratio – especially at work!

However, with a team of 400+ employees from 11 locations, spanning 3 states, serving 2000+ customers, something inevitably goes “wrong” every day. Missteps or mistakes are to be expected (after all, to err is human, right?), are easily corrected, and 99.9% of the time are not a Big Deal. Nonetheless, the things that need correction need attention, meaning that “what’s going wrong” can quickly consume a conversation, a day, or even a week.

How then does an enthusiastic and well-meaning manager assure that positivity prevails? While there’s no “one size fits all” answer to that question, strategic recognition definitely has a meaningful impact:

  • A clearly defined “system” for recognition promotes healthy competition.
    As a naturally competitive person, the idea of a points-driven recognition system immediately appealed to me. I loved the Brand Integrity platform concept and knew that many of our team members would also instantly buy in to the promise of points, badges, and rewards. Sure enough, interest in the platform is high and participation rates are even better than expected.
  • Excellence is in the details.
    Recognizing specific behaviors, rather than simply saying thank you, sets everyone up for success. When someone shares a story about an employee who greets guests warmly and with a smile (one of our key behaviors), every person who reads that story can duplicate that behavior. Focusing on one detail at a time reminds us that the “little things” have a big impact.
  • Story-telling connects members of the team.
    Story-telling provides a structure for personal reflection, which is the basis for personal growth. When I hear about a team member who goes above and beyond in delivering a personalized experience for a family (one of our core values), it reminds me of the joyful nature of our work. That 4:1 ratio of positivity is boosted with every example shared. Put simply, it feels good to be reminded that you are surrounded by colleagues who are doing good things.

As a manager, I’m sure I’ll always be looking for new ways to motivate a team and cultivate goodwill, but I can say for certain that strategic recognition will always be the heart of those efforts. With a “system” that is both manageable and meaningful, we’re poised for long-term success!

About Doodle Bugs!

Doodle Bugs! Children’s Centers is a leading education-based child care provider. For over 23 years, the company has grown tremendously; now serving over 3,000 families and employing over 500 staff members. The company has been featured several times in Exchange Magazine’s Top 50 List of Child Care Organizations in North America.  Doodle Bugs! Children’s Centers has six centers in Buffalo, five in Rochester and one in Pittsburgh. A center recently opened in Lake Worth, FL, and a location is currently under construction in the Sarasota area.

  CultureEmployee EngagementEmployee ExperienceLeadershipManaging the Experience

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