Is a simple thank you too much to ask for?

The rate of change in business today is accelerating, whether that’s technological change, customer demands, economic uncertainty – all are complex challenges. As a result, employees have to be more resourceful, hard-working and dedicated in order to keep up. But according to McKinsey, over half of our employees are not engaged. Productivity is stagnant, Quiet Quitting is rife and employees feel a sense of not being connected to anything.

In a survey we conducted for our new book, Bad Bosses Ruin Lives, 81 percent of respondents reported an Unappreciator as the most common bad boss type, with another study noting that 65 percent of employees have not received any form of recognition in the last year. This creates a pressing need for organisations to prioritise strategies to boost morale and productivity. Could appreciation be the best way to change these numbers?

Appreciation is not some fluffy feel-good gesture, it’s a powerful tool that can change the way teams operate and can even drive business results.  Research shows that employees who feel valued and appreciated by their managers feel more engaged, motivated, and committed to their work and even have less burnout.

“Sometimes managers wrongly see recognition as a ‘tip,’ believing that it doesn’t need to be given as employees are already being paid to do their job. We need to challenge this so that everyone is valued for the work that they do. After all, if you don’t provide recognition, your competitors will!” — Judith Germain, Leadership Catalyst, The Maverick Paradox

Managers play a crucial role in shaping employee experiences.  Studies show 57 percent of people leave organisations because of their manager. In comparison, 69 percent of employees say their boss has the most profound impact on their experience (matched only by their spouse). Finally, there’s a 70 percent variance in employee engagement scores directly attributed to their manager. Managers have a huge opportunity to use appreciation to create a positive and encouraging work environment where employees feel valued, supported and motivated to excel.

 When employees receive recognition and praise, their brains release neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin to create feelings of happiness, satisfaction and trust. In addition to the expected benefits of enhancing mood and well-being, they reinforce desired behaviours and foster stronger bonds between employees and their managers.

Appreciation isn’t just saying “thank you”. It involves personalised and meaningful recognition of someone’s achievements and contributions. By recognising employees’ efforts and accomplishments in a specific and timely manner, managers can reinforce positive behaviours, boost morale, and inspire higher levels of performance.

The MUST model is useful to remember the steps:

  • Make appreciation meaningful – describe the action taken, connect it to a company value, and share the impact of the action.
  • Make appreciation unified – appreciate your people in a unified and inclusive manner. Remember the “glue” people just as much as the “superstars”.
  • Shine a spotlight on appreciation – if the employee is open to the idea, it’s always best to announce the non-sensitive bits of the praise publicly.
  • Make appreciation timely – give the feedback in as close to real-time as is practicable.

Organisations wanting to retain top talent should keep in mind that employees who receive regular appreciation and recognition from their managers are five times more likely to stay and grow.  Through appreciation for their teams, managers can foster loyalty, commitment, and a sense of belonging that encourages employees to stay.

Tips for appreciation:

  • It is like a muscle: if you don’t use it, it goes away. Remember to try to find something to appreciate regularly.
  • It should even be used for small things. Not every action will deserve a Nobel prize.  Even slight improvements should be recognised.
  • It can be done inexpensively. It could be as simple as recognising good work in a meeting. No cost, but high benefit.
  • It must be genuine.

Let us end by encouraging you to use the tool of appreciation over and over again with your people, turning them into superheroes and reaping the benefits of their powers. And don’t forget to deliver it using the MUST model, delivering what we call the ‘appreciation feeling.’ As poet Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”