Communicating praise to employees key skill for management

05/31/2012 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:10 AM

Life in the workplace has become increasingly stressful. The financial stress from the global economy downturn has affected businesses, nonprofit organizations, ministries, schools and government agencies. Employees in the workforce are discouraged. Team members have to “do more” with fewer resources. Staff members report not feeling valued for their work and are approaching burnout.

Sixty-five percent of workers report receiving no recognition or appreciation from their supervisors in the past 12 months. And 79 percent of employees who quit their jobs report that not feeling valued was among their top reasons for leaving.

At the same time, business managers and organizational leaders are frustrated. They know their team members are working hard but are getting worn down.

Many organizations have attempted to address the issue by implementing employee recognition plans. But, in one study, only 31 percent of employees in organizations that had recognition plans reported feeling appreciated for doing their work well. As a result, leaders often feel stuck: They want to do something that will encourage their staff but they don’t know what to do.

Why it’s important

Why is feeling appreciated so important in a work setting? Because each of us wants to know that what we are doing matters. Without a sense of being valued by supervisors and colleagues, workers start to feel like a machine or a commodity.

When team members do not feel valued, the results are predictable:

• Workers become discouraged, feeling there is “always more to do and no one notices whether I do a good job or not.”
• Employees begin to complain about their work and negative communication among co-workers increases.
• Negative behaviors increase: tardiness, absenteeism, conflict, stealing, lower quality work and apathy.

We have identified four critical factors that need to occur for appreciation to be experienced as authentic appreciation by team members:

• Appreciation must be communicated regularly. If appreciation is only communicated during performance reviews, employees don’t believe the messages sent. Similarly, infrequent messages (once or twice a year) don’t adequately communicate that the team member is truly valued.
• Appreciation must be individualized and delivered personally. People want to be appreciated for what they individually have contributed. Unfortunately, most organizations use group-based acts of appreciation – a blast e-mail thanking the department for getting a project done or a volunteer appreciation picnic. This type of communication often backfires, with employees becoming cynical or feeling offended by the general nature of the act.
• Appreciation needs to be communicated in the languages and actions that are meaningful to the recipient. Individuals have specific ways in which they prefer to be encouraged. When messages are sent repeatedly in ways outside of our primary language, the intent of the message “misses the mark.” Not only is this ineffective, it becomes discouraging as well – both to the sender and the receiver of the message.
• Appreciation needs to be perceived as being authentic. People want appreciation to be genuine. Workers are skeptical of programs implemented from the top down where supervisors are given an instruction to “communicate appreciation for each team member at least once a week.” While we all want to know that we are valued, we want it to be authentic, not contrived.

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