TOPIC - The language of appreciation
Debbie Lawrence - Business Insight
(Originally published in the July 2012 issue of the Nova Scotia Business Journal)
The leading factor in employee appreciation and recognition is not how much an individual is paid or how secure they feel, but the extent to which they feel heard, valued, respected and appreciated for what they do. The key for managers is in understanding that what makes one person feel appreciated does not necessarily work for someone else.
In workplaces where appreciation and recognition are absent or sporadic, it is not unusual for employees to feel disconnected from their co-workers and the company’s overall mission. Workers talk about feeling discouraged, especially in situations where the focus is always on the next task without any acknowledgement of what has already been accomplished. As one client shared recently “there’s always more to do and no one appreciates what I am doing anyway so why should I try harder?”
You know you rank low on the appreciation barometer when you notice employees complaining more, coupled with an increase in absenteeism and turnover. And just saying thanks doesn’t work.
Current research shows there are many languages of appreciation for the workplace with various dialects within each of them.
One language of appreciation is “words of affirmation”. The challenge is deciding which dialect within that should be spoken. One person may feel most appreciated with feedback about their job performance related to a specific project or task. What has greater value for a different individual is when their boss provides feedback affirming their positive personal characteristics like honesty or integrity, and yet others respond best to comments about their work style such as having great organizational skills.
How it is delivered also makes a difference. A participant in a workshop recently shared that when her manager privately praises her she can feel her peacock feathers rising, while the man sitting next to her said if recognition is not in writing it means nothing because words are cheap. Some employees love to be acknowledged publicly such as on their company’s website or in a public newsletter, while others feel special when feedback is given in front of co-workers.
Leaders should always have a conversation with their employees about how they most want to be valued and recognized simply because it eliminates the guesswork. Then it can be given in a way that will have maximum impact. The key is to be consistent and genuine in showing appreciation and recognition, and to do so often.
The founder and president of Abundant Living Inc., Debbie Lawrence is a life, business and career coach and author of “Standing In Your Light: Women and Entrepreneurship” and “Dancing in Your Light: 6 Steps to Attracting A Life That Makes Your Heart Sing”. Debbie is also the recipient of the 2011 Nova Scotia Champion Ambassador Award for Workplace Education. Check out her website at www.abundantliving.ca or call (902) 895-6987.