"If you don't show appreciation to those that deserve it, they'll learn to stop doing the things you appreciate.” - Unknown
Appreciation. We all want it.
Appreciation is acknowledgement that what we do, or who we are, brings value to someone or something. It makes us feel worthy. It makes us feel seen. And it’s often the invisible hand that lifts someone up and inspires them to enrich their lives. It’s truly a wonderful gift to give—and receive.
Appreciation. We all need it.
You can research any employee satisfaction survey and appreciation is always one of the top reasons employees choose to stay at an organization—and one of the top reasons employees choose to leave. The want—the need—for appreciation, recognition, acknowledgement and praise—starts at a very young age.
For example, how many of us parents participated in a potty party when our toddler finally went do-do in the toilet instead of on the kitchen floor (ya, it happened!)? “What a big girl (boy),” we’d cheer and clap as we admired the floating achievement our child proudly displayed. The purpose of the potty party was not only to encourage the positive behavior to continue, but also to build our child’s confidence and self-esteem.
The need for recognition and appreciation continues into adulthood and plays an integral role in the development and satisfaction of our personal and professional lives. So why do grown adults need a potty party every time they accomplish a goal, exceed expectations or provide excellent customer service? Because it feels good!!! And when something—like recognition, makes us feel good—we want to do it again and again. So, an employer can actually benefit (increased production, decreased turnover, happier employees and an improved bottom line) from making someone feel good! Talk about a win-win. I’ll take two please…
If showing sincere appreciation is a win for the employee and a win for the employer, why does “lack of appreciation” continue to show up over and over again on organizational employee satisfaction surveys? I have two theories—it is either NOT happening at all or enough or it’s NOT happening in a way that drives employee engagement.
Why would it NOT be happening?
I’ve met many individuals, including supervisors that say, “I don’t need to be acknowledged!” Can you guess who else they think “don’t need to be acknowledged?” You guessed it, their employees and/or colleagues. It’s unfortunate, but some supervisors think receiving a paycheck is appreciation enough. I fear these individuals never got a potty party when they were little or have received little appreciation/acknowledgment themselves; therefore, don’t want, or don’t know how to give it to others. They are also the ones that expect a lifetime achievement award for putting their coffee mug in the dishwasher after their significant other spent the weekend cleaning the entire house without any mention. Disclaimer: Any resemblance to real life events is a coincidence and in no way shapes the author’s opinions or values.
To remedy this, appreciation, just like civility. has to become a part of an organization’s corporate culture-- and it starts at the top. If top leaders put employee recognition and engagement at the top of their strategic objectives, it will begin to drive performance and employee satisfaction. When leaders begin to implement employee recognition initiatives and give out sincere appreciation themselves, the behavior will begin to be mirrored throughout the organization.
Appreciation isn’t only shown through recognition and acknowledgement. For an employee to feel truly valued, leaders must regularly communicate any changes that can affect them, ask for their input on any changes that can affect them and offer guidance and support on any changes that can affect them. In other words, employees want to feel included in decisions that can have a positive or negative affect on the work that they do or how they do it.
Another reason appreciation lacks in the workplace is that some supervisors just don’t know how to show appreciation in a way that resonates with employees. The best way to find out what makes your employees feel the most appreciated is by asking. You can do this corporately through an employee satisfaction survey or on a smaller scale during department meetings. You may be surprised how simple their needs are. Many employees just want their supervisor to guide them, evaluate their progress and recognize their achievement with a simple thank you or public acknowledgment.
There are many ways to show appreciation and it should NOT be a once a year event. Appreciation needs to be regular, sincere and specific.
I want to challenge you. Concentrate on the things in your life, at home and at work, that make your life easier. It could be that an employee or leader went out of their way to help you on a project. It could be that your spouse washed and filled up your gas tank because they saw you were short on time. Now, I want you to STOP, take a moment to reflect on the gift that was given to you and consider how you can give them sincere acknowledgement. Can you go beyond a thank you? Could you acknowledge them publicly at a meeting or send an email to their supervisor? Could you send them a handwritten note or gift them Starbucks? What kind of potty party can you give them that will not only make them feel good, but will make YOU feel good?
Give them what they want. Give them what they need.
Photo: (My 21-year-old cub) It's these moments that I knew taking that photo would come in handy as payback for the teenage years...