Have you told your employees you appreciate them today?
Wrack your brains and think of the last time you told an employee you appreciate them and their work. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer but if you can’t remember the last time you recognized an employee or told them they were doing a good job, you’ve got some trouble on your hands.
Employee appreciation or employee recognition is a very integral factor in employee engagement. Because if employees find that they are liked and respected at a workplace, they are more likely to stay there are they not?
Also read: Employee Recognition: Low Cost, High Impact
You may or may not be surprised to find that there exists a day for Employee Appreciation. Conversely, there’s a similar day for Bosses as well, but that’s not the main focus of this article.
The point being, there exists a day for employee appreciation and it falls on the first Friday of March, every year. There’s plenty of articles out there that are devoted to ideas about how to best appreciate employees, especially on this day of employee appreciation. In the interest of full disclosure, Engagedly too has articles in a similar vein. The intent behind these articles is not malicious. Rather, it is an attempt to improve employee recognition. However, it is clear now that the approach is somewhat muddled.
The main reason being, you really shouldn’t wait for a day to appreciate employees. Employee appreciation is not just saying a few trite phrases of gratitude and calling it a day. You have to truly feel what you are saying and employees should feel that they are being valued, not being treated as if they were disposable.
Tokenism grates and employees are quick to pick up on it. They know insincerity when they see it and they can certainly understand when praise is warranted and when praise is not.
The Problem With Not Sharing Praise
Some of the common excuses I’ve heard for not giving praise are:
- If I tell them they are good, how can they improve
- It’s just not my way of working
- I don’t believe in praising people
- I think recognition is childish. My employees know they are appreciated
All these reasons are baffling to me because they expect the other person to be a mind-reader. And unless evolution has dramatically changed in the past few thousand years, I can say with complete certainty that telepathy is still a fantastical dream that’s straight out of a book or a film.
These reasons are not excuses, but rather, a way of thinking that hinges on the other person knowing exactly what the other is thinking. This kind of opaqueness of thought is not a good quality for a leader to have. You are essentially becoming an echo chamber. When asked to articulate our own thoughts, we struggle so much. How are we supposed to read the thoughts of others? More often than not, when expressing the thoughts of others, we base their potential thoughts on our own biases and projections, because that is the only frame of reference we have.
We cannot expect employees to be mind-readers, plain and simple. And neither can we assume that their tastes and preferences are the same as ours.
Praise is good. Praise is important. And most of all, praise is relevant. Praise is the other side of feedback and if we as a culture value continuous feedback, why do we give short shrift to praise? What prevents us from investing fully in complimenting a person’s skill or work? Why do we feel like if we were to praise someone, we would be diminishing our own abilities?
Some of these can boil down to cultural differences, some of it boils down to entrenched ideas of how one must behave but most of it boils down to the fact that we are all supposed to be adults who can function with or without validation.
A lot is written about millennials and their need for recognition. But that is unfairly putting the blame on one entire generation who are coping with a very different world from which their parents lived in. Recognition is not something that is tied to millennials alone. Rather, we as humans enjoy being recognized. If you think about it, there are so many proverbs on hard work being its own reward. Because putting in the effort is what matters. Somehow, we have forgotten to apply that to office spaces. We have become blase about efforts and simply consider only the end results. This is not to say that results don’t matter. They are important. They should not be the only focus of your organization, that too at the expense of the employees.
Also read: 5 Mistakes That Hurt Employee Recognition Programs
It is not possible for a workplace to be sterile and neutral. On the other hand of the spectrum, neither should be it a comfortable place which feels like you’ve never left home. Instead, recognize work as a place where people come to work for a variety of reasons and need a reason to continue doing so.
Some employees have worked as their only main objective, for others, it might be a secondary objective. But it does not mean the effort that they put in is lessor. It’s important to recognize work as and when it is done. The only metric for recognizing work is how well it is done. Other factors don’t really matter, and certainly not the amount of investment one has in one’s work. Though I will add, it is enervating to work with an employee who’s passionate about their job. Passion is contagious and ripples down to the others as well.
And the most important thing of all is this – recognition does not cost much. Indeed, a few heartfelt words of praise can do more magic than we can imagine.
Yes, hard work is it’s own reward but isn’t it nice anyway when someone says, “I just wanted to tell you that you did a good job today. I’m proud of you.”
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