FOOD FOR THOUGHT: The Power of Appreciation

Think about your career. We’re betting you savor memories of when a boss or other colleague made you feel truly appreciated, whether it was an award, a thoughtful note of thanks or public praise at a staff meeting.

But you probably also vividly recall the opposite kinds of experiences: When a congratulatory email about a completed project left out your accomplishments. When you worked crazy hours to handle a last-minute request but got no thanks. When the presentation you lovingly obsessed over got only a half-hearted “looks good” from your boss.

Now, remember how you approached your work after each kind of experience. Did the praise or recognition infuse you with additional energy confidence, and motivation? And when you were overlooked, didn’t that make it harder to go the extra mile for your company? 

Like it or not, we all crave appreciation — it’s part of being human. But this universal need gets ignored all too often in our workplaces, which ultimately pay the price.

Getting engaged

Our case for more (and more meaningful) appreciation goes back to a couple of buzzwords that seem to be everywhere now: employee engagement. There’s a reason we hear so much about engagement: It can make all the difference in a company’s health.

Leaders, do you have happy, motivated employees? Then your whole company probably has a flexible, adventurous culture. It’s likely to make more money and attract better job candidates. On the other hand, disengaged employees create a culture of bickering, office politics, high turnover and aversion to change. All of that, of course, affects the bottom line: Disengaged employees “cost the American economy up to $350 billion a year in lost productivity.” That’s no pocket change!

Sadly, disengagement is rampant. In a survey earlier this year, 86 percent of employers reported that they’re feeling the negative effects of disengaged employees. A 2011 Gallup study found a whopping 71 percent of employees were “not engaged” or “actively disengaged.”

The website Buzzfeed has soared to wild popularity by providing content to what its CEO calls the “Bored at Work Network,” the millions of disengaged office workers who are looking for something to do at their computers. Think about that: Disengagement is so pervasive, one of the web’s top sites built its whole strategy around it.

The power of appreciation

So how do we create more engaged employees? Lavish salaries and flexible schedules? You might be surprised to learn that money and work-life balance alone don’t really do much to drive engagement. But, again and again, we see that something simple and inexpensive does: meaningful appreciation.

In one poll, 82 percent of employees said receiving recognition makes them more satisfied with their jobs. The Austin American-Statesman  newspaper found that employee appreciation was a common theme when workers described the city’sbest places to work. In the U.S. cities ranked best for employee engagement, such as Denver and Sacramento, companies got high marks for their recognition efforts.

As Forbes contributor Meghan Biro puts it: “Financial reward is a great thing, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the equivalent of recognition. … Recognition is a key tool in employee retention programs for a reason: people need more than constructive feedback and positive affirmation. They need recognition of extra effort. They need to ‘feel’ it. This will never go away as a basic human need.”

At Trophyology, we are passionate about offering creative resources and ideas to bring recognition and appreciation to the center stage. We believe that they are vital not only to the bottom line, but, more importantly, to happy, fulfilled work lives.


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