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Words of Affirmation is just one of the five ways employees like to be shown appreciation. And business and organizational leaders are constantly reminded how important it is to communicate appreciation to their staff — and it is. But sometimes a simple ‘thank you’ isn’t said often enough.
When employees feel truly valued and appreciated, good things follow. Team members are less likely to leave for another job, complain and grumble, steal from the organization, or get hurt on the job.
Conversely, they are more likely to show up for work (and on time), follow established policies and procedures, and get more work done. Their job satisfaction ratings go up and their employee engagement increases. Also, when staff feel appreciated, customer ratings tend to rise and managers report enjoying their work more.
So if all these positive results occur, why isn’t appreciation communicated more?
There are a number of reasons, and those reasons can differ across individuals. But these are some of the most common factors:
1. Everyone is too busy
Supervisors, managers and employees report that they skip appreciation efforts because they are too busy. Almost everyone states they already have too much to do and don’t have any time (or mental space) to think about another set of tasks.
Busyness is far and away the primary reason people cite for not communicating appreciation. Paradoxically, we have found when team members feel truly valued, more time is freed up by not having to deal with minor problems caused by people being easily irritated.
2. A focus on tasks
Another frequently cited reason for not communicating appreciation has to do with the nature of work and work relationships. By definition, work is focused on getting tasks done. Companies either sell goods or they provide services, and that is the focus of every employee’s day. But accomplishing tasks requires working with other people in order to accomplish the organization’s larger goals.
There has to be a balance of working together with others as people (employees are not just production units or machines) and getting the work done. Again, when team members feel appreciated, research shows that productivity increases.
3. Concerns about expressing appreciation
Managers often say: “I don’t want people to begin to expect praise all of the time.” Others voice concerns that their appreciation will be discounted and viewed as inauthentic. And finally, communicating appreciation can feel like a bit of a risk — the message may be at a deeper, personal level than some people feel comfortable communicating in a work setting.
The problem with this approach is the underlying assumption isn’t true. Employees don’t need to be praised all the time – in fact, when the correct appreciation language and actions are used, the need is met and doesn’t have to be repeated frequently.
4. Uncertainty about what to say, or bad reaction in the past
Some supervisors report they really don’t know what to do or say when they are encouraged to communicate appreciation to their team members. Is “thanks” enough? Others report that they have tried to praise those with whom they work and it didn’t go well. They either got no response, a grunt, or a sarcastic comment in return. As a result, they have low motivation to try it again.
The solution? Learn new ways of showing appreciation and find the actions that your colleagues actually desire by having your team take the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory which will point you to the specific actions each colleague values.
5. Not receiving appreciation themselves
A few individuals will report they don’t recognize their colleagues for work well done because “I never got any praise through my career and I’m doing fine.” Many supervisors and managers don’t feel appreciated or valued themselves, so it’s challenging for them to communicate positive messages to those who work for them — because their own emotional well is dry.
By having your whole team go through the process of learning how to show authentic appreciation, you empower them to be able to encourage and support you.
6. Belief that appreciation isn’t needed
Finally, some people say that they either don’t think appreciation should be communicated or that they really don’t value those with whom they work. When leaders don’t value recognizing or encouraging their employees (the “I-show-them-I-appreciate-them-by-paying-them” approach), there is not much to do except to let them experience the results of their choices.
Typically, these leaders have the highest turnover rate and lowest job satisfaction ratings by their staff. There are times when some colleagues are difficult to work with or people just don’t get along very well. But it is best not to try to fake communicating appreciation when it isn’t really there. Even so, co-workers usually have some characteristic (possibly something outside of work) that you see as a positive.
What to do?
First, it is important to understand the importance of your staff feeling appreciated. If you don’t accept this as a reality of managing others, a negative work environment will develop and you’ll have a revolving door of team members. Recent research found that during the Great Resignation, employees report that they are 4x more likely to leave due to a toxic workplace culture than leaving for more compensation.
Don’t create another to-do list — you and your supervisors don’t need more to do. Rather, make sure that the efforts and actions you take hit the mark. A generic “way to go, team!” isn’t going to make employees feel valued. Make sure you tell individual employees how they specifically helped the team accomplish their goals.
Realize that not everyone feels appreciated in the same ways; find out what is meaningful to your team members and communicate appreciation through these actions. Then you’ll know that you’re hitting the mark and genuinely showing your employees authentic appreciation.
Dr. White is the coauthor of three books including, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, written with Dr. Gary Chapman (author of the #1 NY Times bestseller, The 5 Love Languages), which has sold over 425,000 copies. Based on their extensive research and expertise, Dr. White and Dr. Chapman have developed a unique way for organizations to motivate employees that leads to increased job satisfaction, higher employee performance and enhanced levels of trust. Their online assessment tool, Motivating by Appreciation Inventory, has been taken by over 200,000 employees and their Appreciation at Work training resources have been used by numerous corporations, colleges and universities, medical facilities, schools, non-profit organizations, and government agencies, and is used in over 60 countries.
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