“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.”
– William James, American philosopher and psychologist
Do you feel free to give and receive expressions of gratitude at work? If the answer is “Um, no,” you’re not alone. Research shows that “Americans actively suppress gratitude on the job, even to the point of robbing themselves of happiness.” This may be due to a fear of sounding disingenuous, not being able to reconcile why gratitude is necessary in a workplace since people are getting paid, or other factors. It’s unfortunate, though, because the psychological and physical benefits of giving and receiving gratitude have been established in and out of the workplace. For example, gratitude helps people connect to others, enhances emotional maturity, and builds strong relationships. All of these are fundamental to creating high performance teams.
Below are some expert suggestions on how to actively cultivate workplace appreciation in a way that is meaningful for recipients.
Like all forms of communication, there are more and less effective ways to share workplace gratitude. In the article, “5 Simple Ways to Harness the Power of Gratitude at Work,” emotional intelligence expert, Harvey Deutschendorf, offers guidelines to make workplace appreciation more purposeful. We share a few of his suggestions.
Constructive professional feedback tailored to an individual is more helpful than generic or cliched messages. The same goes for expressions of gratitude. Be specific about the person’s qualities, actions, or accomplishments that you are praising. Workplace appreciation should be as intentional and clear as any communication you give to colleagues.
Think about the intended recipient of your praise. Would this person prefer to be acknowledged publicly or privately, verbally or in writing? If you’re giving physical gifts, don’t give the same gifts to everyone; tailor them to individual interests. The team will notice and appreciate the effort.
There are practices you can implement to cultivate ongoing workplace appreciation. Start or end a meeting with a gratitude check-in or check-out. Create a team gratitude journal and read from it when you need some personal or collective inspiration.
According to Paul White, co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, leaders make two major judgments in error when thinking about workplace appreciation. White outlines these misbeliefs and the true purpose of workplace appreciation in the article, “Appreciation at Work: Two Major Misconceptions Leaders Hold.” We’ve summarized them for you.
If your goal of showing appreciation at work is to “make others feel happy,” you may be disappointed to learn that receiving appreciation does not always correlate to feeling happy. According to White, people’s feelings are based on whether their expectations are met. While we can’t make someone feel happy, we can signal that we value and respect this person.
Gratitude in the workplace often leads to greater engagement, retention, and ultimately profit. However, if financial motives are the primary driver of appreciation efforts like awards and other forms of formal recognition, employees may rightly perceive the motives as manipulative and push back.
It’s more authentic to express appreciation out of “a sense of respect and value for the person.” This appreciation can be for a person’s workplace skills and achievements, but it can also be for personality qualities or accomplishments outside of work.
Remember, too, that appreciation doesn’t just have to be top-down. Peers can and should express authentic appreciation for each other.
Thank you for being a part of the Meeteor community! We at Meeteor are grateful for your blog readership, comments, and suggestions. Let us know how you and your team show workplace appreciation in the comments section or by tweeting to us at @meeteorHQ!