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Submitted by williamelledgepe on


Is the phrase "keep it up" demotivating?

I frequently use the phrase, "awesome - keep it up" when I here a good thing - especially when it is an improvement in an area we have been working at.  Someone mentioned to me that I should revel more in the moment by saying "awesome" and leave it atthat - because "keep it up" detracts from the success of the moment by looking atthe future (something like that).  I can kind of see the argument, but am OK with the phrase because it does say I want to continue to see this.  I do not use "keep it up" during feedback - I end with "thank you" after the what happens part.  I guess I use the phrase during praise (maybe).  

Any thoughts?  I plan to keep using the phrase, unless a groundswell here tells me otherwise.  

donm's picture
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The entire purpose of feedback is to encourage good future behavior/performance, and its corollary of discouraging bad future behavior/performance.

As soon as you can change the past, you can stop looking for improvement in the future. Until that time, it is your job to say, "Keep it up" or "Stop doing that."

As I tend to be very direct, I would say to the person who is complaining, "If you don't 'keep it up,' when you do something correctly, I won't get a chance to say 'Awesome' again. I happen to like saying 'Awesome!' when we do something right, so... 'Keep it up.'" I'd probably smile and wink at this point, and then walk away. I could even see myself looking back over my shoulder saying, "Awesome!" again, too.

mrreliable's picture

Someone said that instead of saying "keep it up" you should "revel more in the moment by saying 'awesome' and leave it at that?" You must be in California, right?

My first thought at reading your post was an old joke. Q: How many Californians does it take to change a light bulb?" A: "Six. One to change the bulb and five to share the experience." (I have nothing against Californians, lighten up!)

Put another way, someone who overanalyzes a widely-generic stroke like "keep it up" compared to "awesome" comes across to me as someone who is taking vacant, pseudo-intellectual babble to a whole new level.

"Keep it up" is like saying "Hi" instead of "Hello." I get the desire to be accurate and specific, but I don't believe it matters a whit whether you say "Hi" or "Hello."

The conversation could just as easily have been about whether to smile and nod when speaking with someone, or leave out the nod. I'd have a difficult time trusting someone who tried to tell me why it was best to raise one eyebrow.

Here's the bright side. This person wanted desperatelly to give you a suggestion on how to improve your communication with your directs, but they couldn't think of anything substantive. Good job! If you have them wondering whether "awesome" is better than "keep it up," you have them just where you want them.

pucciot's picture
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Whomever told you this may have simply been talking about how they view the phrase.
Is this person sure that it is demotivating to everyone ? Or is it just him/her that wants to be in the moment ?

The point is, a good response to this may be - to respond with a thank you.
And that you would take note of that when you are communicating with them about performance.


Other people have different communication. Lots of people would really appreciate not only the moment, but also the focus on the future. They may even respond to a "keep it up" with a "Thanks Boss, I will !" And get a lot of joy from that little exchange.

I'd say, file that little critique as a "note to self" about how that particular person likes to get praise and feedback.

Good Luck