People Need to Feel Appreciated

Maria had worked in the Quality Assurance department for months. In addition to doing her job well, she voluntarily came in early each day and had coffee ready for the rest of the team. Making coffee wasn’t in her job description, but it was something she wanted to do and it made her feel good to help others. She enjoyed her job and planned to stay as long as possible.

Her supervisor, Joan, was the type of person who noticed things and always had a positive word to say. Joan even would brag about her employees in front of her district manager, Mr. Cramer.

At dinner, Maria would tell her family that Joan was the reason she liked working there. Joan made her feel good about what she did. She noticed and recognized the little things people did and always had something nice to say to them. Maria knew she could find a better paying job closer to her home, but she planned to stay as long as Joan was her boss.
Salonda had quite the opposite experience. An administrative assistant, who had worked for a large organization for 22 years, she had shouldered more and more responsibility as her company downsized time and again. She felt as if she had five times as much work.

When the company cut a temporary worker who worked with her, it was the last straw. She told her boss she didn’t see how she could keep getting all the work done. Instead of acknowledging her work load or seeking a solution, he casually remarked, “You will figure out a way.”

The next day Salonda quit. Now she’s a floor clerk at a local homebuilding store. She makes half the money—but has twice the fun, and feels her efforts are recognized rather than ignored.

The moral of these stories? Money may attract people to the front door, but something else keeps them from going out the back. Although many people claim they are quitting for a better paying job elsewhere, survey after survey shows that a lack of appreciation and recognition is a primary reason why people quit their jobs.

A survey I conducted for my book Here Today Here Tomorrow showed when asked, What causes you the greatest dissatisfaction at work, the answer with the most responses was Lack of appreciation.

Many managers are uncomfortable complimenting others and making employees feel appreciated. In situations like these, a nudge from the top can be very effective. I know a hospital CEO who gives his managers five tokens at the beginning of each weekly staff meeting. Their instructions are to go out in the hospital and give the tokens to people they catch doing something good. They may not come back to the following week’s staff meeting until they give away all of their coins.

Often, managers get so involved with day-to-day business that they forgo the “soft” skills that are so important to people. The tokens served as a reinforcement to start this behavior.

Setting up a program to make people feel appreciated is not difficult. A well-administered program builds camaraderie, values, and makes people feel good about themselves and their jobs. But the biggest reason for the success of these programs is simple–they allow people to celebrate success and feel good about who they are and whom they work for.

Know what motivates-Before you plan your program, find out what motivates your people. Don’t assume you already know. In one organization I worked with, management was absolutely certain that employees would select money as its preferred form of recognition. Turned out, money didn’t matter, but parking did. While executives and certain top employees could park in the lot next to the building, most employees had to park several blocks away. With this information in hand, we built a very effective program around parking.

Add variety-Another key aspect of an effective program is variety. All programs become a little boring after about six months. Add variety to your program to make it new and interesting. Consider friendly competitions between departments, or unusual award items. At Miami-based Creative Staffing, the owner offers employees a menu of rewards, which includes parties, expensive dinners, chauffeured shopping sprees, spa sessions, and cooking lessons with Paul Prudhomme. Employees decide what they want, figure out how much their package costs, and determine how much additional business they have to generate to cover those costs. And they really enjoy choosing their own reward!

Written by Gregory P. Smith

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