You say “Thank you”. What they hear is, “Please accept my standard, HR protocol-approved format for acknowledging your most recent activity that was intended to bring me value.” Yes, the gap. It exists. It can be worse than a bout of Chinese Whisper. And it is certainly more common than you think. In this article, we look at the nuances of appreciation at the workplace.
MINIMISE GAPS OF APPRECIATION AT THE WORKPLACE
Despite their best intentions, when managers and bosses give a pat-on-the-back to a team member, who has excelled at the job, it can be interpreted as a ‘routine round’. The reverse is equally true. A worker may be perfectly happy receiving a simple ‘Thank you’ note, but the giver may hesitate under the misconception that it will be perceived as a meaningless, clinical ‘process’.
Interestingly, there is a third permutation to the picture as well: A supervisor (or peer) may NOT do or say anything but make the sense of appreciation perfectly clear via non-verbal means, body language or gestures. So, except the fourth combination (where a ‘Thank you’ is neither expressed not intended), we can see that there can be a complicated criss-cross of emotional nuances and semantic innuendos at any given point of time.
Adding to the riddle is the illusion of transparency (Shatz, Itamar (2016)): A theory explaining the huge gap between ‘what people actually know’ and ‘how much you think they know’. Most managers work around this dissonance by delegating these to HR folks.
SIGNIFICANCE OF APPRECIATION AT WORK
Acknowledgement of one’s contribution and its recognition, is amongst the principal pillars of a motivated and productive workforce.
FEW TIPS TO APPRECIATE TEAM MEMBERS
Is it possible to simplify the nuts and bolts of employee appreciation and scrunch the big lessons into a compact, easy-to-follow guide? Here are some simple techniques and tactics that anyone can practise at work.
DROP BY FREQUENTLY
A simple ‘Howdy?’ or ‘All good?’ as you check into work in the morning can often be just enough to make workers feel acknowledged and buoyed. It may feel like a chore in the beginning (especially if it’s not a part of the culture), but the good part is that the feeling will soon morph into a pleasant habit you will grow to look forward to everyday.
CONVERT EVERYDAY TASKS INTO MAGICAL MISSIONS
A dry memo or a regulation email is about as inspiring as a slow internet connection or listening to a politician’s address. Therefore, if you are about to dole out ‘yet another regulation brief’ that features the same tasks and asks, just stop. Try to ‘mix things up’ and make it special.
Tell the employee why the gig has come to him or her specifically and not someone else. Show them that their opinion about the task matters greatly by enquiring how much time they think they might need for it.
SHARE POSITIVE FEEDBACK
A good word from the same boss – while necessary and awesome – can get predictable (or worse, feel ‘staged’) after a while. Try to look out for positive mentions from other sources, such as peers, clients and extended channels and networks too. If someone has appreciated a team member in a mail or over a text message, be quick to pass it on.
THROW A CHALLENGE
The workplace is a playground where we must be teased constantly to bring out our hidden talents, punch above our weight once in a while and experience the thrill of trying ‘new stuff’. While humdrum tasks and unglamorous routines must remain the bread-and-butter of a business, do keep an eye open for opportunities when you can spice up ‘grunt-chores’.
RECOGNISE AND REWARD
When appreciation comes in the form of incentives and rewards, it adds an extra layer of zing to the equation, and authenticity to the employee-employer premise and promise. Make it ASAP before the vibe grows cold so that you can take advantage of the ‘magic of the moment’. Incentive delayed, after all, is incentive denied.
APPRECIATION IS A CULTURE, NOT AN ACT
It is a workplace habit that must be enforced top down by the leadership. Review your rewards policy frequently, keep it ‘real’, be generous in dispensing praises and plaudits — and you could be pleasantly surprised by the big shifts your small gestures of appreciation usher in at work.