For all leaders, it is a continuous effort to increase their leadership qualifications. In my experience, the feedback that improves me most generally comes from my subordinates. I have to admit that sometimes it is not easy for me to accept those feedbacks. However, I always pay attention and try to spare some time to think about them. In the end, I always see that particularly these inputs are the ones which help me most to improve my leadership competencies.
Some years back, one of my subordinates told me that he does not feel appreciated and he feels himself worthless. That made me curious because I always thought that I do thank the people around me whenever I see an opportunity. As a first reaction, I have even checked my e-mails to prove myself that I have been appreciating him and I have really found a lot of “thank you” notes that I sent to him. Nevertheless, for some reason, my messages and feelings of appreciation were not perceived by him. J
Those days, I also came across with many different perspectives about the appreciation in the workplace. Once, I even heard a manager saying “why should we appreciate people, they have to do their jobs anyway”. At another meeting, one manager said that “Appreciation should be only from a manager to a subordinate” and he added that an assistant thanking to a director would be absurd.
I kept questioning all these in my mind while reading some books and articles to better comprehend what lies beneath all these confusions.
Why Do We Find It Difficult?
Bob Nelson, who created Employee Appreciation Day when he first wrote “1001 Ways to Reward Employees” in 1994 (the name of the new edition is “1501 Ways to Reward Employees“), he also answers the question “Why is such an easy thing so hard for people to do?”13 and summarizes the issue;
“Lots of reasons: They’re busy, they’re forgetful, they aren’t that creative, they don’t think it’s really all that important, they aren’t sure how to do it well, “Isn’t that HR’s job?,” “No one does it for me–when I start getting it, I’ll start giving it,” “We thank people–it’s called a pay check,” “People should be glad they’ve got a job,” and “Let me know who’s not happy and I’ll have a little talk with them to straighten them out.” Basically, “the beatings” will continue until morale improves.”13
Why Should We Appreciate
One of the greatest needs of a human being are psychological needs such as being understood, affirmed and appreciated 4.
Remember a time that you have given or got an appreciation, positive emotions flows to both sides11. It gives as much as it takes. It impacts to one people’s life by increasing that person’s self-worth 10.
By this way, employee understands what they are doing matters and will definitely go on doing that.
Research indicates that communicating appreciation to employees decreases the chances of their leaving, increases customer satisfaction and sometimes improves productivity 2.
How Should We Appreciate
Appreciating people takes effort. It has to be genuine and specific1. According to Gallup’s latest analysis of 10,000 workgroups in 30 industries, when it comes to recognition, individualization is the key. In order for recognition to be meaningful, it must be tailored to the recipient’s preferences, not the giver’s preferences6.
I have read a fantastic book that explains The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace 2, Everyone has their own most valued appreciation language and we need to find those so that we make sure the message has been delivered.
Language no 1: Words of affirmation: According to research, over %45 of employee prefer receiving verbal praise. So this is the most preferred language of appreciation3.
Language no 2: Quality time: Some people needs quality time with their manager and by this way they feel what they are doing is significant and their manager values their contribution. They prefer a specific time that manager spared for them to ask how everything is going and giving the opportunity to share whatever they would like to share with them2.
Language no 3: Acts of service: Some people are focused on their tasks and they value most when people would like to help them. When they need a resource or they are challenged, manager could give a hand to help them to complete their task2.
Language no 4: Tangible gifts: Giving the right gift to someone who values tangible rewards is a powerful message of thanks. Of course the gifts should be chosen wisely. Surprisingly, Employees choose tangible gifts as their least valued way to be shown appreciation almost 70% of the time3.
Language no 5: Physical Touch: A firm handshake, a high five, pat on a back, a hug could be very powerful appreciation for some people2.
I suggest to take a look into their website. They have a survey to understand which language of appreciation is the most valued to us and they do it for organizations as well, to help them to develop this culture.
Make sure recognition is in the moment, authentic, positive, personalized, specific and spontaneous for the best value. 16
According to Gallup’s research5, When asked what types of recognition were the most memorable, respondents emphasized six methods in particular — and money isn’t the only (or the top) form of recognition:
- public recognition or acknowledgment via an award, certificate or commendation
- private recognition from a boss, peer or customer
- receiving or obtaining a high level of achievement through evaluations or reviews
- promotion or increase in scope of work or responsibility to show trust
- monetary award such as a trip, prize or pay increase
- personal satisfaction or pride in work 6.
Let’s start to appreciate each other. It is a very fundamental and easy to implement toll, which has a very powerful positive effect on all of us.
- “Encouraging the Heart”, James S. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, Jossey-Bass, 1999.
- “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Work Place – Empowering Organisations by Encouraging People”, Gary D. Chapman, Paul E. White, 2011
- “The Power of Appreciation”, Justin Kramer at TEDxLosAltosHigh
- “The Power of Appreciation”, Mike Robbins at TEDxBellevue
- “The Transformative Power of Gratitude” Katia Sol at TEDxMission The City2.0
- Infographic; “Motivation and Recognition” https://virtual.ashridge.hult.edu/resource/read/motivation-and-recognition