Merge's Blog

Don’t forget to praise those who work behind the scenes

I admit it, I love watching television shows that have to do with cooking and food.  Not because I’m very good at the former, but because I love the latter!  Viewing these programs has given me an appreciation of the gargantuan behind-the-scenes effort taking place in the kitchen to produce the plate of food that eventually makes it to your table, not just looking fantastic and garnering praise, but also tasting delicious.

Long before your meal arrives, there’s cleaning, chopping, mise en place, cooking, seasoning, testing, tasting, and plating that happens behind the kitchen door.  It’s only after all these tasks have been completed that your server arrives and presents your meal with a flourish!  But what if even one of these steps was missed or done incorrectly?  Do you really want grit in your mushrooms because they weren’t properly washed?  Or potatoes that are unevenly cooked because they weren’t cut uniformly?  Or soup that is bland because someone forgot to add salt?  Or meat that is overcooked because no one tested the temperature?  I think you get where I’m going with this – if you don’t get the preceding tasks done right, then the final culinary creation likely isn’t going to be very good.

It’s important to praise everyone!

Which brings me to the workplace.  No matter what industry or sector you work in, whether you’re externally or internally-focused, your clients and customers likely see only the end result of your efforts – the goods or services that they have purchased or acquired.  And when things go well, it’s usually (and ironically) the final product that gets all the glory.  Yet, if you think about it, most of the important work undoubtedly happened behind the scenes.  It was all the preceding tasks that were flawlessly executed that led to the ultimate spectacular outcome.  But the glory tends to go to the final result.  Which means that it’s your job as a leader to balance out this inequity.  Leaders need to make sure that the out-of-sight background effort is celebrated and applauded just as much as the flash and sizzle at the front of the house.

Do you get caught up in praising and complimenting the final result, or do you make it a point to celebrate the people who did the important work behind the scenes?  Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.  Please add your comment below.


  • This topic is really timely for me. Yesterday, I sent out an email to all staff recognizing folks who were involved (from start to finish) in resolving a safety issue. I didn’t focus on the final outcome but rather the process.

    The email was well received and more so than most of my other letters of recognition.

  • Your kitchen metaphor is a good one and can be expanded on. Where I see managers miss opportunities is when then don’t get their staff invested in why the outcome is important. If all the employees in a company can relate to the product or service they are helping create, then there is usually more investment in a good outcome by those employees. Just as adding the right amount of spice is key to a good meal, finishing a product that is meaningful to the cumtomer is key.

    • Ah yes Ted, so the folks doing the cleaning, chopping, mise en place, cooking, seasoning, testing, tasting, and plating should know how their hard work leads to the final product, AND why it matters. Agree completely!


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