Current research suggests that people are burning out and not being appreciated enough in the workplace. According to Rath and Clifton, 65 percent of employees polled said they received no recognition or appreciation in the past 12 months. And Bersin research suggests that 80 percent of large corporations have employee recognition programs, only 31 percent of their employees said they feel valued for doing quality work.

The truth is, 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. This is because they are not built upon the core principles needed for appreciation to be communicated effectively.

Core principles for effectively-communicating appreciation:

1. Making sure praise is specific and personal

The most common mistake managers make is sending communication that is general and impersonal. They send blast emails with no specific meaning to the individual who stayed late to get the project completed. It is better to use the employee’s name and tell them specifically what they do that makes one’s job easier.

2. Realizing that other types of actions can be more impactful than words for many people

Some employees do not value verbal praise.  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.

3. Using 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.  Find out what they value and communicate in that language.

4. Separating affirmation from constructive criticism or instruction

If you want the positive message to be heard loud and clear, don’t follow your affirmation with “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 hear the positive.

5. Being genuine

Don’t try to fake it, or overstate your appreciation. 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.

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