Give yourself a pat on the back!

A little praise goes a long way, as someone said. I've just been reading that an American scientist has patented an invention for workers who feel their boss doesn't appreciate them. It consists of a wooden arm with a hand attached. By pulling strings, people are able to pat themselves on the back.

What a grand idea. I reckon it would be most effective if purchasers left it lying on the desk or workbench so the boss could see it as he or she walks past. What you might call a gentle reminder. If silence continues to reign - in the bin with it. Or look for another job.

As editor of the Daily Express, I worked for Lord Matthews, joint chairman of the Trafalgar group, which owned the Ritz and other hotels, Cunard and the QEII, Express Newspapers and about half the nation's construction industry. One biographer said Matthews seemed to be mesmerised by yours truly, which surprised me since he never uttered a word of praise.

Once I complained to him: "I work twelve or thirteen hours a day, rush about all over the place, win new readers week after week, and never a word of thanks." He thought about it for a second or two, then growled: "If I wasn't satisfied with your work, you wouldn't be here."

What makes us in this country so reluctant to give praise? It's a strange characteristic and certainly counter-productive. How many of us yearn for a loving word of support from our partner? At work, even those in the best-paid jobs can be profoundly unhappy if they feel their services are not valued. Telling people they are doing well can work wonders. We're happy, willing and eager when we know we're appreciated.

Sadly some would say the British take a dim view of success of any kind. "Build 'em up and tear 'em down," seems to be the ruling philosophy, especially when it comes to celebrities like footballers and film stars.

Michael Caine tells of a father out walking with his son one Sunday morning who sees him driving his Rolls Royce up Brixton Hill. "Look at that, son," he says. "Flash Harry! Who's he think he is! I knew him when he lived by the Elephant 'n Castle and didn't have two ha'pennies for a penny."

Switch the scene to Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, says Michael, and the father would say: "Hey, how about that, son? Michael Caine, on top of the world. Work hard and do well at school and one day you could be driving along here in a Rolls Royce."

I blame the media for all this negative thinking. By constantly stirring up our emotions, editors and programme makers have created a mood of cynicism. These days we tend to jeer instead of cheer. Let's pat each other on the back - with a real hand.

Thank you for joining me - I'll be back here shortly.

Copyright © 2000 Derek Jameson / Retirement Matters Ltd.  All rights reserved.