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Criticism to praise ratio: what’s yours?

Ros Taylor is a workplace psychologist who says that studies in her discipline show we should praise seven or eight times more than criticize, as the ratio for peak performance.

When you track back to find out what studies, they were conducted with teachers and originally applied to how students perform – apparently all the evidence is that the seven or eight to one ratio is the magic formula.

There’s the nice (probably mythical) story of the manager who put eight rounded stones in one pocket each morning and transferred one over to his other pocket every time he praised someone that day and put one back when he criticized. He did it because it takes us time to train ourselves into new habits (Ros says about four weeks) and he needed a physical reminder while he was ‘training’ himself.

It only works if you have pockets and access to pebbles. And I expect you end up with holes in your pockets if you try it, and a lopsided walk. It also doesn’t work if you don’t have pockets. But, it’s a nice story to embed the point in our minds anyway.

Also, just to be awkward, the pockets and pebbles doesn’t add up, does it, unless you only have one employee…(I’m being too literal-minded. Analyze anything too much and it gets destroyed 😉 It’s STILL a good story/metaphor).

What sparked that ramble off was Nick McCormick’s post in The Leadership Hub suggesting your criticism to praise ratio should never be more than one to one and asking what yours is. Here’s the link to Nick’s post: Singing People’s Praises

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