Praise has long been one of management’s most important tools. You don’t even have to mean it for it to work, and it costs nearly nothing. What’s not to like?
Machiavelli knew praise is just a weapon — in our armoury [David Dayson]
Not only is praise cost-effective, it can also boost production.
a left hand pats your back while the right one — gives you more [David Dayson]
The only negative to management’s use of praise is that it is easily seen through.
if only we could turn the other cheek to — backhanded praise [David Dayson]
But, of course, that’s up to us, and if we’re susceptible to praise in the first place, enlightenment may come as something of a disappointment:
vanity’s bubble pricked — by faint praise [David Dayson]
So it is the praise of peers we most value, as our colleagues know the true value of one’s work and character, charged as they are with the same challenges (and ownership):
Management’s soft soap rinsed by clean waters of praise from one’s good colleagues. [John Lock]
My three choices this week all chronicle the discernment of the manipulative aspects of praise. They are all mordant, but in their very wit they suggest a resiliency that mere flattery will never breach. All reside firmly in the realm of senryu, that close cousin to haiku that focuses on the vagaries of human behavior, often with just this trenchant sense of humor.
My third choice is tellingly observant:
praising your bonus a smile around their mouth — but not the eyes [David Dayson]
Specialists in facial characteristics (that is, human lie detectors) tell us that true smiles — smiles arising from actual pleasure and delight — involve the eye muscles, and that false smiles do not. Our poet is not deceived by the “hail fellow well met” attitude of his colleagues, suspecting perhaps a deeper and more basic emotion: envy.
Second prize this week goes to this terse nugget:
peer praising the economy of handshake [Ernesto Santiago]
Is this cynical or simply realistic? It’s hard to say, but it seems quite true to life, either way. I like the economy of dispensing with the article we might expect before the final noun, and also the parsimony of making that final noun singular. Nicely gauged.
Top winner this week is this piece of deflation, which leaves no doubt as to its cynicism:
congratulations — you are reappointed to your old job [David Dayson]
One of the hallmarks of both haiku and senryu is its ability, in the three-line format, of providing a surprise (not always humorous) in the ultimate line. While “reappointed” shades us in its direction, the third line here is as unexpected as it seems inevitable once we’ve read it through. What is more demeaning than being congratulated for staying in the same place? And to be expected to suffer it with gladness? And yet the tone of the poem is jaunty, as though these slings and arrows will be insufficient to humiliate this person. That’s a testament to actual self-esteem, and that’s much better than any praise, even the praise of peers.
kaffeeklatsch — a colleague reheats words of praise — Roberta Beary * Rebecca’s apparel the praise I deserve lost in the seams — Celestine Nudanu * three-sixty feedback: Just a workplace synonym — for Stockholm Syndrome — Topher Dykes * well done — and ahead of deadline too, snail — Ernesto P. Santiago * before asking me to work his hours the co-worker’s praise — Rachel Sutcliffe * congratulations — raising the glasses eyes full of admiration — Doris Pascolo * got a pay rise! the eager praises of peers in the pub — Marta Chocilowska * roiling clouds the pharmacopoeia of each smile — Betty Shropshire * the bottle of merlot more valued than any phrase of praise — Mark Gilbert * wooden idol sagging belly comic smile unspoken praise — Ashoka Weerakkody * An envious peer ironically says to me: how good you are! — Rosa Maria Di Salvatore * unsigned notes of praise the boss says not me — Pat Davis * office meeting someone’s imitating my report — Willie Bongcaron * unexpected praise — all peers consider it my last day — Hifsa Ashraf * note of gratitude her offer to relieve me of one recess duty — Marilyn Appl Walker * collective praise collective stab lurks somewhere innocent victim — S. Radhamani * peer recognition a colleague forgets my name — Marion Clarke * job well done scrawled in the dirt on my rear windshield — Michael Henry Lee * pub drinks the celebrations on office account — Madhuri Pillai * I leave the flock — face new challenges collecting praise — Angela Giordano * my birthday everyone cheers except the boss — Christine Eales * with just a nod he praises my design Ta-da! — Shandon Land * praise the saw and the chair legs — Adrian Bouter * a colleague’s praise then mom’s voice echoes don’t get a big head — Peggy Bilbro * matrioske peers . . . how many faces I know never come matrioske — quanti volti ci sono è da scoprire — Lucia Cardillo * peer approval masks cover masks — Olivier Schopfer * the praise of peers — now her self-image changes her appearance — Tomislav Maretic * nonnegotiable letter of recommendation mispelings and typos — Ron Scully * we give him a prize for making a splash — year of the frog — Martha Magenta * while applauding my award his eyes call me bitch — Gail Oare * praise of peers the flutter of poplar leaves in the breeze — Michael Stinson * retirement party sincere words for the best teacher — Carmen Sterba * sushi bar party colleagues’ enthusiasm is contagious — Elisa Allo * suck it up he didn’t fire you or ask you to take a knee — Tricia Knoll * employee of the month a lunch invitation at the avant-garde bar in a borrowed dress the fish boot licker hands on manager in the breakroom microwave as the crow flies — princess k * my colleague praising me — end of weekend — Ana Drobot * midnight calm one by one my cheer squad turns home — Alegria Imperial * he tells me I’m cute I hint I’m from the fraud squad keeping his distance — Karen Harvey * the Oscar’s gleam the applause of one’s peers wordless — Karen Conrads Wibell * end of year praisesong — the chorus loudest at the social loafers’ end — Adjei Agyei-Baah *
Next Week’s Theme: Miscommunication
Send your poem using “workplace haiku” as the subject by Sunday midnight to our Contact Form. Good luck!
From October 2014 through April 2016 Haiku Foundation president Jim Kacian offered a column on haiku for the London Financial Times centered on the theme of work. Each week we share these columns with the haiku community at large, along with an invitation to join in the fun. Submit a poem by Sunday midnight on the theme of the week, from the classical Japanese tradition, or contemporary practice, or perhaps one of your own, which you might even write for the occasion. The best of these will be appended to the column. First published 2 February 2016.