Employees were equally clear about the ways in which managers communicated a lack of appreciation for them

Employees were equally clear about the ways in which managers communicated a lack of appreciation for them

Employees were equally clear about the ways in which managers communicated a lack of appreciation for them

1. Expressions of gratitude that are inauthentic or sweeping generalizations. Appreciation needs to be specific and genuine. While employees were enthusiastic about the variety of ways in which gratitude can be expressed, they were not moved by empty or offhanded gestures. There’s a big difference between yelling a thank-you on your way out the door versus sitting down with someone to describe the things you value about their work and its positive effect on the team or organization.

Meaningful expressions of appreciation were often described as timely, relevant, and sincere, and expressions that come off as hollow may actually be worse than no thanks at all. Managers also need to tread carefully when recognizing everyone on a team. Sometimes a group’s performance is not a reflection of equal contributions from all its members, and you run the risk of alienating high performers if everyone receives the same recognition.

2. Neglecting standard company procedures. Many busy managers feel that procedures like annual reviews, quarterly check-ins, and nominating employees for awards are a waste of time. But to employees, they’re important milestones that provide clues about their progress and performance. When a manager skips them, employees often infer that they, not the procedure, are what the manager doesn’t value. If you’re going to deviate from the organization’s rulebook, at the very least you need to be explicit with your employees about why, or they might conclude that your inaction is a statement about them.

Mistakes to Avoid

3. Letting employees feel isolated from coworkers or the larger organization. For managers, it’s much easier to see how the contributions of each person fit with the work of others, but employees often lack that insight. When managers highlight how employees use one another’s work within their department or across others, it sets the stage for appreciation to spread throughout the organization.

4. Sudden or unexplained shifts in your appreciation practices. If you haven’t been focused on showing your employees appreciation, don’t overcompensate for it; chances are, they’ll see your efforts as insincere. Instead, let them know that you’re working on developing your gratitude skills as a leader. Take time to ask how they’d like to be recognized. Some may enjoy being thanked publicly, while others will bristle at the idea. The key is to know your employees’ individual preferences.

Making Appreciation Easy and Contagious

The best part of appreciation is that it’s free and doesn’t consume a lot of time. Anyone at any level can offer appreciation. It can be directed toward an employee, a colleague, or a boss. But when leaders get involved in the effort, a culture of appreciation spreads more quickly.

One thing that helps is getting together with other managers to discuss gratitude strategies that have worked well (or haven’t). If you’re a manager, consider partnering with one or more peers to exchange ideas and create accountability for your efforts.

At the end of the day, building a culture of appreciation comes down mostly to a lot of small commonsense practices: Not taking your people for granted. Remembering to say thank-you in a personal and sincere way. Making it clear that you’re interested in your employees’ growth and in them as individuals.

Start by expressing more gratitude to those around you and see what happens. You might be surprised at what a big difference the little things can make.

2. Give balanced feedback. Employees want to know both what they’re doing well and where they can improve. In our discussions they reported time and again that receiving feedback – positive and developmental – was one of the key things that made them feel valued. As one employee explained, receiving praise from her manager was meaningful, but because she never got improvement-oriented suggestions, she questioned how valid the positive feedback was. Meanwhile, some employees who escort services in Waterbury received only critical feedback seemed to give up, because they felt they could never do anything right.

Mistakes to Avoid

3. Letting employees feel isolated from coworkers or the larger organization. For managers, it’s much easier to see how the contributions of each person fit with the work of others, but employees often lack that insight. When managers highlight how employees use one another’s work within their department or across others, it sets the stage for appreciation to spread throughout the organization.

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