Tuesday, June 9, 2009

You might have a "praise deficiency"

Our house backs up to several acres of woods, so we see all kinds of wildlife. Deer have wandered through the yard, rabbits come and go, and on two occasions hawks have landed on the back porch.

It's a cat's dream.

Our kitty Bella is in summer hunting mode despite her overflowing food dish, which means on any given morning I can open the door and see her standing next to the latest headless "trophy" she's brought to show off. As if to say, "See, this rat could have gotten in the house. But I took care of it for you." She sits there, eyes bright, smiling, until you scratch her head and give her a treat. "Good kitty. Thank you for putting this lovely decapitated creature next to the front door."

Reporters are no different than cats. They want praise for a job well done. Except in many newsrooms, you might never get your head scratched or get a treat.

The single biggest complaint I hear from reporters is, "I never get any feedback." If this applies to you, you're certainly not alone, as many NDs fail to give any kind of praise when praise is due. The other half of the most popular complaint is, "I only hear something if it's bad."

I once worked for a guy for three years and heard one compliment in all that time. One. It consisted of, "Nice job" after a very difficult live shot.

When you're in this situation, you begin to doubt yourself. Imagine if you grew up and your parents never said anything nice to you, and only talked to you when you were bad? And for the young generation, this problem is even worse, as many of you have grown up in homes in which you've gotten nothing but praise.

It all goes back to that Seinfeld episode. "It's not you, it's me." Many times there's absolutely nothing wrong with your work. But if you're doing your job in a vacuum, it's natural to begin to doubt your abilities.

If you're in this situation, seek out feedback from people you trust. Veterans in the newsroom, people at other stations. The idea is not to get false praise, but to find out what you're doing well and what needs work.

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