By Paul White, Ph.D. (USA)
The mission of professional coaches is to increase productivity by assisting businesses and leaders to address deficit areas and to build new skills. One key area is in helping managers grow in the skills that help make the work environment more positive. With so many leaders and employees experiencing burnout, high turnover and increasing negativity, this mission is more important than ever. Coaches can help organisations by helping them understand that showing authentic appreciation in the workplace can be foundational to improving the culture.
Most Americans don’t feel valued at work, regardless of their job. While almost 90% of all organisations and businesses in the U.S. have some form of employee recognition program, job satisfaction and employee engagement are actually declining. A Gallup poll completed in 2012 found that only 30% of U.S. employees are actively involved in and emotionally committed to their place of employment. This is the highest level of disengagement found since the research began in 2000.
In another poll conducted by Gallup, 65% of North American workers report not having received any recognition for doing a good job in the past 12 months. Additionally, individuals who voluntarily leave their employment cite not feeling appreciated as the top reason they are leaving. While 51% of supervisors believe they are doing a good job of recognising employees to do a good job, only 17% of the employees report feeling that their supervisors do a good job of recognising them.
In fact, the most common responses by employees when discussing employee recognition typically ranges from apathy to cynicism.
The workplace environment can change for the better. Unfortunately, many recognition efforts by managers are misguided and wind up being a waste of time and effort. Why? Because they are not built upon the core principles needed for appreciation to be communicated effectively.
Core Principles for Effectively Communicated Appreciation
- Make sure your praise is specific and personal. The most common mistake organisations and supervisors make is that their communication is general and impersonal. They send blast emails: “Good job. Way to go team.” But they have no specific meaning to the individual who stayed late to get the project completed. Use your colleague’s name and tell specifically what they do that makes your job easier.
- Realise that other types of actions can be more impactful than words for many people. Some employees do not value verbal praise (the “words are cheap” mentality). For many people, they have grown to not believe compliments from others, expecting them primarily to be an act of manipulation. Other actions can be more impactful for these individuals, like spending time with them or helping them get a task done.
- Use the language of appreciation valued by the recipient. Not everyone likes public recognition or social events. One leader stated, “You can give me an award, but you’ll have to shoot me first before I’ll go up and get it in front of a crowd.” And for many introverts, going to a “staff appreciation dinner” is more like torture than a reward for doing a good job. They may prefer getting a gift card for a bookstore and staying at home and reading. Find out what they value and communicate in that language.
- Separate affirmation from constructive criticism or instruction. If you want the positive message to be heard “loud and clear”, don’t follow your affirmation with a “Now, if you would only…” message. Don’t give them a compliment and then tell them how they could do the task better. They will only remember the “constructive” criticism, and may not even hear the positive.
- Absolutely be genuine. Don’t try to fake it, or overstate your appreciation (“You are the best administrative assistant in the free world!”). People want appreciation to be genuine, not contrived.
Negative and cynical workplace environments can be improved. Good things happen when individuals feel truly valued and appreciated for their contributions: employee relationships are less tense, communication becomes more positive, policies and procedures are followed more, staff turnover decreases, and managers report enjoying their work more. Clearly, when supervisors and colleagues begin to communicate authentic appreciation in the ways that are important to the recipients, positive results are not far away.
About Dr. Paul White
Dr. Paul White is a licensed psychologist who has worked with individuals, businesses and families in a variety of settings for over 20 years. He received his B.A. from Wheaton, his Masters from Arizona State, and his PhD in Counseling Psychology from Georgia State University. He consults with successful businesses and high net worth families, dealing with the relational issues intertwined with business and financial wealth. In addition to serving businesses, families and organisations across the U.S., Dr. White has also spoken and consulted in Europe, Central Asia, the Caribbean, and South America. For more information, please visit his website at www.drpaulwhite.com.
Paul White, Ph.D., is a speaker, trainer, author and psychologist who “makes work relationships work”. Dr. White is co-author of Rising Above a Toxic Workplace, and has recently released training resources to help businesses avoid becoming toxic. For more information, go to appreciationatwork.com/toxicworkplaces