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Appreciation in the Workplace Wins

While the bottom line in leadership is often about the 'simple' issue of delivering results, the reality will always remain that it is only through the goodwill, commitment and critically engagement of your colleague and reports that will make this happen.

It seems to me there is a worrying trend going on amongst many people I work with that talks about morale and engagement not being what it was.

While we can put some of this down to a number of issues, namely; tough economic times, time pressures to deliver results and little diminution of stakeholder expectation, this really masks a more fundamental basic human need that is missing, which is individuals feeling a sense of appreciation for what they do.

After working on this very issue in four different organisations over the past six months, I can honestly say the situation is retrievable. Our practical approach gets right back to the basics and involves everyone – including the most cynical!

Perhaps to shed some light on what might be going on and what needs to be addressed I found this recent article Margy Bresslour which, while written with an American bias the issues are truly the same for all of us wherever we lead, I hope you find interesting and informative as well as it adds to your own deliberations on the matter given your role:

Wouldn't it be great if we loved our work?

I hope you derive satisfaction and reward from your work, but research shows that's not the norm. Let's walk you through some of the current research on the typical American workplace and employee dissatisfaction, and then look at how we can improve.

Employees in 2013: Checked out

A recent Gallup study of the American workplace found that among the 100 million people in this country who hold full-time jobs, about 70 percent either hate going to work or have mentally checked out to the point they cost their companies money. The same study also concludes that "7 in 10 American workers are 'not engaged' or 'actively disengaged' in their work, meaning they are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive".

Two other studies point to similar findings. According to the U.S. Department of Labour, the number one reason people leave their jobs is because they "do not feel appreciated." In a number of polls, 65% of Americans report receiving no recognition during the past year at their work.
A study of over 1,700 employees conducted in 2012 by the American Psychological Association (APA) indicated that more than half of all employees intended to search for new jobs because they felt underappreciated and undervalued.

Valuing Employees: The path forward

These statistics are bleak and present a sad commentary about the modern workplace. However, there is hope when it comes to building strong organizational cultures that support and retain employees. Other studies show when employees feel appreciated and valued they:

  • increase their individual productivity;
  • increase engagement among their colleagues;
  • are more likely to stay with their organization;
  • receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers, and
  • have better safety records and fewer accidents on the job.
Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival, to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

We all want to be appreciated for who we are and the value we offer in the workplace. Studies show that employee engagement is directly linked to how leaders and managers interact with employees. Gallup found that managers who focus on employees' strengths eliminate active disengagement and double the number of workers who are engaged.

A worldwide study by Towers Watson concluded that "the single highest determinant for engagement is whether or not employees feel that their manager is genuinely interested in their well being".

Appreciation also leads to positive changes in attitude, relationships and viewpoints

In his book, Bringing Out the Best in People, Aubrey Daniels concludes that "recognition and appreciation are the most powerful motivators of improved performance". He states, "Building a successful business means most of all bringing out the best in people – only people-oriented positive reinforcement in the form of appreciation, recognition and gratitude can do that."
In addition to improved work product results, appreciation also leads to positive changes in attitude, relationships and viewpoints, which help build a strong organizational culture.

When you work for an organization that doesn't care about you (or doesn't demonstrate that it does), it's common to question your self-worth, including your strengths and contributions. You may start to ask, "Do I matter?" This attitude tends to follow you outside of work. In contrast, when people notice and acknowledge the good qualities and characteristics you have, you begin to see them too.

There's even more good news to share: people who give appreciation benefit as well. There is evidence that sharing positive messages with others promotes a feeling of happiness in the person delivering the message.  The results are simple and intuitive. There's a tremendous amount to gain by appreciating those around you in the workplace. Wouldn't you enjoy working with productive and fully engaged employees who are proud of and speak highly of the organization where they work?

Finally, if you're really interested in knowing more around the whole subject and some insights into the areas to work on, I have got hold of a copy of the Gallup Survey mentioned above and attached it for your information.

To conclude, while the bottom line in leadership is often about the 'simple' issue of delivering results, the reality will always remain that it is only through the goodwill, commitment and critically engagement of your colleague and reports that will make this happen. On a personal level, as I mentioned earlier, I know that my tried, tested & validated in practice approaches to getting behind these recommendations and making them real, delivering enhanced engagement and productivity do show how teams and organisations can make great strides in meeting these basic and necessary goal. I suppose it's having done it now four times over the last six months and refined the approach that leads me to feel so confident about the outcomes.

Peter Buckley

I coach and develop individuals and businesses, in the private and public sector, Internationally and in the UK at board C-Suite and operational levels. Acknowledged outstanding results delivered through bespoke individual and team coaching, mentoring and leadership development to enable performance and productivity improvement with positive team dynamics and sustainable enhanced morale.

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