Do you see examples of “un-couragement” in your organizations?
Some might argue that most people are good at giving encouragement and that I am only presenting negative examples. I hope that is true. I hope I have just had the bad fortune to bump into a few bad examples in close proximity to each other. But for us to view these examples of what I often call “un-couragement” as anomalies or exceptions, they would have to be very rare. Even if these examples of un-couragement are less frequent than real encouragement they may still be frequent enough to be a problem.
I suspect that we are all at risk of unintentionally practicing un-couragement more often that we might think. As we get caught up in our daily lives we forget how important our reactions to the small incremental achievements of our children, colleagues, and employees really are. We may underestimate the value of a pat on the back or just a simple “well done”.
It is probably fair to assume that these practitioners of un-couragement have good intentions. I doubt that they want to undermine their student’s or their employee’s self-confidence or motivation. Somehow, despite their best intentions, what they believe to be encouragement comes out all wrong. This is really the essence of un-couragement, there is no ill will intended in un-couragement, quite the opposite. It is the effects our un-couragement has on the other person, not our intentions that define the concept of un-couragement.
The most striking thing for me is that this is not a question of giving criticism to underperformers, a task that can be quite difficult. This is a question of giving or not giving encouragement to people who perform well. Giving criticism may even be harder than receiving it, but giving encouragement ought to be the easiest thing in the world.