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Praise and Appreciation at the work place

This article will focus at the work place. However its applicability could also prevail at home, in schools and in group meetings, be it in business or social gatherings.

Praise and appreciation should be part and parcel of the art of management. However it is rather common to see managers with frowned face who enjoy sadistically seeing their staff tremble in their presence. With such scene they wrongly feel that they are one of the most highly respected managers. In such atmosphere the workers would feign to look industrious during the attendance of their rude manager. They will go here and there simply to show him how busy they look like. In his absence, however, they deliberately slow down their activities and on occasions they even plunder into some sort of sabotage. The act of so much seriousness on the part of the managers simply bars the communication that could have existed with the employees. It is a body language demonstrated by the mangers that rebuffs the approach of the employees. The manager is stet to loose important information that the employees could have provided him. The employees will simply be indifferent.

In the women’s rest room one worker was wasting the toilet paper in great folds. When asked by one colleague why she has to resort into such unruly behavior, the answer was, she has to do it as retribution to the rude, or according to her, the rather evil acts of the manager. I hate the boss she continued. He has never been appreciative of whatever good jobs we would perform. He would bark on any trivial mistakes we make and he takes grudge for several months. I am now on the way of quitting this job and will join another organization.

“My wife is a monster”, told Simon to his friend Ande. She has never been appreciative of whatever I do or our children perform. For years she has shown us a horrendous gloomy face. She never demonstrated a charming face. Our children would tremble in her presence for they would not expect any good words from her. Always she makes everyone in the family feel absolutely guilty even for trivial matters.  In short she has been a disaster. It was a chaotic family affair. Finally I have to break and now I am leading a peaceful life. I am able to view a different horizon of tranquility. 

During a farewell party on the occasion of his retirement, Suleiman told his colleagues that he has enjoyed working with his boss. He vowed to keep him in his heart to the end of his life for he was such a motivating and respectful leader in his organization.

As individuals people have various reasons for working. Basically they have to lead their lives by earning a commensurate income. However the most important thing is that as humans they need love and affection. Great leaders will make all efforts in injecting the feeling of belongingness among the staff. That would be a brilliant way of retaining a staff member for a prolonged period of time. People have many expectations from their organization which impacts morale, employee motivation, and the quality of life.

Some people work for personal fulfillment; others work for love of what they do. Others work to accomplish goals and to feel as if they are contributing to something larger than themselves. The bottom line is that we all work for money and for reasons too individual to assign similarities to all workers.

If one would ask anyone in any working place what treatment they most want at work. They will likely top their list with the desire to be treated with dignity and respect. In this instance it would be appropriate to look into how appreciation is defined.

Wikipedia defines appreciation or (gratitude): “A positive emotion or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive. According to University of California-Davis researcher, Robert Davis, gratitude requires three conditions: a gracious individual must behave in a way that was 1) costly to him or her, 2) valuable to the recipient, and 3) intentionally rendered”
When you express to someone how you value his or her specific contribution you are giving appreciation. You might ask the opinion of someone for some thoughts and you could say something like “Thank you for your excellent note. It was short, you did it very promptly and it answered all the questions I had.”

Appreciation can have the following implications

•    People feel elated and it further increases their energy and commitment.
•    It rewards and encourages the behavior you want. It always keeps them as new people
•    It encourages people to pay attention to, and magnify, what already works well.
•    It quickly spreads, if you take the lead, and increases co-operation and teamwork.
•    It is good to give and it will cost you nothing.
•    There is an eventual reciprocation for yourself if you give it a lot.

How to use appreciation

•    Appreciate people doing things right as you see them doing their work. This can be as ordinary as saying “What a lovely tidy desk”, when she is the only person with a tidy desk in the office!
•    Appreciate people making a special effort. “Thanks for staying over to get that proposal off last night. You had to do it in a rush, but it still looked very professional, as always”.
•    Appreciate people for trying. Someone might give you an idea that looks impractical. You could say, “Thank you for that, your ideas are always interesting. Do you have any thoughts on the first steps?”
•    Appreciate your boss! He or she is human and will respond positively. You could say, “I appreciate your supporting my position at the project planning meeting”.

At meetings

•    When you have a particularly good meeting, talk about what making it go so well and why.
•    If you wish, you can give each other appreciation on their contribution to the success of a very important or extended meeting or project.
•    After every meeting, ask the people for their thoughts on what went well at the meeting and why. You can then use these thoughts to make every meeting go as well.

For organization development

•    An appreciative enquiry is an appropriate way of managing change. You review and find out what already works well and help people build from this. For example, if you want to increase peoples’ commitment to customer care, you would find examples in the organization where this was already going well. Then you would help them create a shared vision and a plan of action starting from there.

When to use appreciation

•    When you genuinely value what someone else has done or how he or she is.
•    When someone who works for you or a colleague has done a good piece of work.
•    When you are in a meeting, especially one that is going well.
•    When a project has been successful.
•    When you want to create a positive cultural change.

More often than not it is rather common to note that managers would rather fail to enthusiastically give praise and appreciation for their workers for various reasons. The following has been cited by management scholars.

•    False sense of fairness – “If I appreciate someone, others will think I am being unfair to them“. Managers get into this trap too often, and end up not appreciating anyone’s good work. Rather than looking at the positive side of it (if the team is good, and manager is doing a good job at recognizing good work, he/she will end up praising everyone), they look at negative side of it and cause more damage.

•    Lack of involvement –”I don’t have time to know all the details about all the work, especially ones going on well“. Appreciation of the type ‘thanks a lot for great work’ doesn’t help and many managers know it. To be effective, they need to be specific. However, being that specific requires spending more time with the project and know enough details, not every manager has this time, and so they hesitate.

•    Lack of appreciation skills – “Should I send a thank-you mail, or should I go buy flowers for him?” Managers understand that appreciation done in a wrong way can be worse than no appreciation at all since appreciation can backfire too. However, not every manager is comfortable in their knowledge of how to do appreciation the right way (like any other skill, this requires training and practice). This can put them in a bind and they end up not doing anything at all.

Distorted prioritization – “I have too many problems to solve today, I will send an appreciation note tomorrow“. Appreciation requires effort. Most of the time, benefits of appreciation are intangible, long-term and hard to quantify, which makes many managers prioritize this below the immediate and urgent work items whose results are more quantifiable and immediate. And given the fact that most managers have more work than time, they never get around to doing a low priority work like appreciation.

•    Organizational culture – “This is not the time to celebrate or praise, let’s continue to fix our problems and be the best org“. Many organizations are ‘continuous improvement focused’, which means they focus a lot on identifying inefficiencies in the system, structure and people, and work to fix them. Such a focus on problems does not allow managers to hone their skills of identifying good work (since they never look for it). Also, such a culture typically reward managers more for finding problems and solving them (tangible and measurable) rather than motivating and appreciating employees to create a happier workforce (intangible and non-measurable).
Any person on the leadership saddle should be thoughtful of the art of appreciation for it is part and parcel of management. The following are a tip of advice recommended by researchers to keep in mind when appreciating someone:

•    Be specific: This is the most important one. Appreciation of type “I really liked the way you approached the problem and could sort out on your own and find the problem in less than 24 hours! Thanks for being so responsive to our most important customer” are way more effective and memorable than “Thanks for a great job for our most important customer“. This shows you took effort to understand the work and also this shows exactly which part of the work you are appreciating.

•    Look for opportunities to appreciate – Sometimes the manager sets the bar of appreciation so high that no one meets it. However, appreciation is also needed when the individual thinks they did a good job. So sometimes managers have to look for opportunities to appreciate rather than waiting to be wowed.

•    Timeliness – Appreciate as soon as you notice the act, rather than wait for right or better time. Timeliness reinforces the right behavior by associating the appreciation with the work done (especially when it is specific). Stale appreciation is easily forgotten and definitely loses its impact.

•    Understand your team: People have different views on how they like to be appreciated. Some like being appreciated in private 1-1 setting. Others like to be recognized in front of their peers. Some may want money to go with it, others may hate it if you mention money for a job well done

•    Be truthful and honest – Appreciation that is not genuine and heart-felt is worse than no appreciation because it hurts manager’s credibility and manager can end up losing trust and respect (‘phony’ is not a good word to be associated with).

•    Behave the way you feel: Appreciate by action too, not only by words. Appreciating someone for displaying good leadership and vision, and then never involving them in ongoing work requiring leadership and vision sends a strong message that the appreciation was a mere lip service.

Usually motivation is a factor of managerial tool for the sustainable growth of an organization. In this article however, I have only focused on the praise and appreciation as in many instances it is believed   that it is a missing link in various managerial situations. Employees should not feel that the minor mistakes that they commit inadvertently surfaces more than their good performances. The culture of blame game should be avoided. Therefore if efforts are done to identify the good side of work performance and plans are made to reward those exemplary employees the drive for creativity and dynamism will keep any organization on continuous growth.


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