• Jac Luciano

Diagnosing you with praise addiction

Updated: Jan 14, 2020

For some, Spring semester is starting next week, and for others, in the next few weeks. If they haven’t already started, seniors will begin applying to jobs. They will start to feel like graduation is around the corner and then may panic (hopefully not) about the road ahead. *I don’t want you to feel anxious or panicked in any way. Unraveled offers resources to mitigate these sentiments, and I am always available to chat for further discussion.*

Given that the real world isn’t too far away for seniors, Unraveled wants to gear you up, so you’re not in shell-shock after graduation and can anticipate what will be different from your college experience.

A few months ago, I released this article, which dove into some reasons why you might not get offers for every job you apply to and how you have to shift your mindset from getting everything you want to not accomplishing everything or making everything you put in for. To recap, I had a tough time transitioning from my first job out of college to my second job. Call me naive, I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting offers to everything I applied to (thinking back on it, I was a little cray) despite not being qualified for some positions. I remember some nights being in tears thinking how I wasn’t making it to the next round of interviews. It wasn’t until I switched my mindset from being the college student, who got everything she applied to (mainly because of being in a body of 4000 students), to an actual adult, who was applying to positions just like a zillion other people were (some of which were more qualified than me and had more experience). I had to be realistic; I wasn’t going to get an offer to every place I applied to. That’s not real life.

A few days ago, I stumbled across this article by J.T. O’Donnell, Founder & CEO of WorkItDaily.com, called “How a 'Praise Addiction' Can Really Mess Up Your Career,” which made me reflect on the post I wrote a few months ago about the shift in mindset you need to make after college.

You might be asking yourself “what the heck is praise addiction?” Praise addiction isn’t a simple definition. There are several types of praise addiction.

Praise addiction might mean -

  • Someone who has an infinite praise tolerance and constantly needs a pat on the back for their efforts

  • Someone who gets defensive and shuts down after being given constructive criticism

  • Someone who gets jealous when their colleagues get recognized for their efforts

  • Someone (get ready, you’re going to be shocked) who avoids praise at extreme levels and doesn’t accept compliments

Do you relate to any of these types of people? If so, you might be dependent on praise.

You might be wondering “how the heck did I develop this addiction?” Don’t fret. It’s common. There are many factors from your childhood and schooling which could have provoked this addiction. When you were a kid, did you play sports? After the season or after winning a championship game, did you get a trophy? If the answer is “yes,” then you received praise for your actions. Did you participate in theater as a child? After the show, did people clap and say “good job,” to you? If the answer is “yes,” then you received praise for your actions. What about school? Did you try to get good grades (and for some of us, better than our friends’ grades)? Have you ever gotten an A or A+ on a paper, and the teacher has written “nice work” or added a sticker to it? Again, it’s a sign of praise. We’ve been programmed to get hooked on praise.

Employers don’t pay you by giving you extreme amounts of praise. They pay you with money for doing your job. When you go beyond doing just your job, companies promote and give raises to their employees, who offer more value beyond what they were hired to do. If you expect constant praise for simply doing your job, what happens if you don’t get it?

Think about it. Will you become sad, unhappy, unmotivated, disengaged, frustrated?

In my professional life, one of the best things I was told during a final round interview is that I wouldn’t get praised for doing my job. The statement set my expectations on what I should anticipate after I complete work or turn-in projects. As I reflect on what I was told, I think about how much that makes sense. You shouldn’t be praised for doing the job you were hired to do. It’s a part of what you agreed to when you accepted the position.

Concerned yet? As I said, don’t panic. There’s some fixin’s we can do to mitigate your dependency.

How might we be able to cure your addiction?

  • Admit you have an issue - If you could relate to any of the types, described above, of praise addiction, you too might be suffering. If you want to make a change, it’s important to recognize your issue because once you do that, you can take steps to reframe your mindset.

  • Don’t let praise be your motivation - Let your career and your work be your motivation not praise. Think about what you want to accomplish, what your goals are, and reflect on your path to getting there. Set milestones for yourself and go after them. Let those goals motivate you. I always say this statement, but you’re in charge of your career, make what you want of it, and build what you want for yourself. Don’t let praise from others be your motivation for doing well in your work. Remember, there might be a time that praise isn’t given, and you don’t want that to affect your tenacity in your work.

  • Keep negativity far away - There will be negative nellies in any type of organization. There will be people who complain about the lack of praise or incentives in any type of organization. Don’t let the Debbie downers kill your vibe. Don’t engage in that type of chatter. It’s not helping you get to your goals or build the career you want for yourself.

  • Take feedback & find ways to improve - When your manager or colleague offers feedback, take it, make changes, and improve your work. I like to think of feedback as a gift. It’s not always given, but when it is, be grateful. Feedback enables you to become better both personally and professionally. With that in mind, it’s never a bad idea to ask your manager on what you can do better, or what you might change in your work moving forward, or what else you can do to provide value. Most likely, your manager will appreciate your proactiveness and desire to provide value beyond your current workload.

  • Praise yourself - Rather than your employer praising you, praise yourself. Give yourself a pat on the back when you accomplish a task that was harder than you anticipate or when you find a creative solution on how to solve a problem. It’s okay to praise yourself. It’s actually beneficial to you, as it boosts your self-confidence and makes you feel more self-reliant.

The foremost reason why I wanted to discuss this topic is because praise addiction can adversely affect you in the workplace and coming out of school, you’re in a position where you are used to constantly receiving praise for your work whether it’s schoolwork, intramural sports, extracurriculars you commit to, or theater. I want to help you make the shift in mindset

… and so you don’t end up in tears, like I did during my interview frenzy, and you know what to expect from your employer.

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