Failed. Never praise for standards

Misstakes I made while praising/punishing a team Posted by Lena Barinova on February 16, 2014 Experiments

It’s very hard to share failures. Half a year has passed and I still feel some embracement and discomfort. But I want to make a note, especially for myself after some years to remember and not to repeat this.


One evening I was just browsing our GIT repository. Looking through commits, wikis, etc. Pulled one solution, tried to build it - failed. Pulled the second one (other team’s) - tried to build - failed again. And only the third one succeeded: I got all referred libraries downloaded, all need configurations done while building - no errors, very little warnings, everything built and ready to run. Taking into account a couple of failures that happened before - I was absolutely happy with the team, that they were keeping their solutions in good health. So I decided to praise this team. I got a big box of chocolates and went to stand-up meeting all happy next morning.

Which was wrong. Never repeat it. No one in a team shared my happiness, they even were frustrated. ‘Why do you complement this standard behavior? We get our salaries for that.’

With praising is pretty clear lesson: do not praise for standard behavior, praise for extra.

But the open question remains: how to encourage teams to keep their solutions in good state if not praising for it? Punish? Promote standards harder? Educate? Push to clean-up?