Face-to-face praise is so low-tech

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So I got a press release the other day about a new app that lets bosses and workers praise a colleague — without having to go through the un-fun process of face-to-face communication!

The app, developed by WorkSimple, rewards hard workers with "a series of colorful badges."

Sweet. Now instead of telling Henderson that he really knocked that PowerPoint presentation out of the ballpark, you can just click a button and send him a valuable badge that's redeemable for nothing.


According to the release, the app, called Praise, is "designed for high engagement by being a lightweight and colorful way to quickly add positive performance feedback."

That sentence is as indecipherable as the assembly instructions for an Ikea bookshelf, but who cares? The company claims 65 percent of Americans received no recognition in the workplace last year. What better way to solve that problem than to create an electronic tool for delivering praise that is impersonal and valueless.

On to your questions:

Q: How can office colleagues be gently told that their voices and guffaws are too loud when on the phone?

from Ken, via email

A: This is a problem that … excuse me … THIS IS A PROBLEM THAT MANY OF US DEAL WITH, KEN.

Virtually every office comes with at least one person who believes words can be propelled through the phone line only by launching them with as much volume as possible. This is not only annoying but also wildly distracting to those of us sitting quietly at our desks playing "Angry Birds."

I consulted some audiologists to figure out why high-volume phone talkers seem so oblivious to their disruptive habit. The short answer is: They don't exactly know.

"Sometimes we'll raise the level of our voice to be compatible with the other person, basically in response to the other person we're talking to," said Paul Farrell, associate director of audiology professional practices at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. "Sometimes it's a cultural thing depending on a person's background and family. And it could involve some kind of hearing loss, though that's likely rare."

Farrell said people tend to speak louder on cellphones than land lines. That's because on a land line you can hear your voice through the receiver, while on cellphones you generally can't.

"In many cases with cellphones, we don't have that auditory feedback like we do on a land line, and it's hard for us to gauge how loudly we're talking," Farrell said.

Craig Kasper, chief audiology officer for Audio Help Hearing Centers in New York, said humans are driven to speak at a volume that ensures they will be heard.

"If you're in a loud work environment, there's a certain level of ambient noise," he said. "People tend to talk louder so they can better monitor themselves. When you're speaking, it's not just about what the other person's hearing."

That's fine, unless the setting is a reasonably quiet office and the booming phone voice is disrupting everyone else.

Farrell and Kasper first suggested noise-canceling headphones as a quick and easy solution for those bothered by loud talkers.

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