“Feeling Under-Appreciated In Your Current Role?” This was the catchy title of a company’s job advertisement placed in Australian newspapers in 2006. At that time the advertisement inspired me to write an article about the importance of appreciation in the workplace. I’ve returned to this topic again because of the stories which friends and clients have shared over the past few weeks. All have either made positive changes in their jobs or their working conditions, or are not happy with where they are working now.
A common theme throughout their stories is their desire to feel appreciated and valued. For example:
- A boss missed an opportunity to retain a valuable employee by not properly valuing staff.
- A friend who moved to part-time work to make time for other interests was disappointed that the manager dampened the enthusiasm by not fully understand my friend’s motives.
- After moving to a new company a satisfied friend commented, “This new company really looks after its people – unlike where I previously worked.”
- A number of clients have lost their enthusiasm at work because they feel unappreciated by their managers. The general feeling is that if managers would just take time to get to know us and our motivations, they would make great leaders.
Last week the Australian Institute of Management (Victoria & Tasmania) released the results of their employee engagement survey. It shows that 40% of the 3,368 respondents felt unappreciated in their roles at work.
“The survey shows that negativity and apathy are present in the ranks of too many Australian organisations.”
In an article by Julia Stirling, Susan Heron (Chief Executive of AIM (Vic & Tasmania) emphasizes the importance of creating a good workplace culture. She comments, “You’ve got to have employees feeling valued, that they are listened to and understood. You need to make sure that employees know that what they do makes a difference and what they do matters.”
“The #1 reason people leave their jobs: they don’t feel appreciated.” (Tom Rath and Donald Clifton)
Appreciation is much more than saying, “Thank you, job well done,” although that can certainly be a start.
In 2006 at the Gallup Leadership Summit in Washington D.C., a CEO panel discussed the importance of relationships at work. They all agreed that appreciation is vital in great leadership. This involves paying attention to people, showing respect, valuing people, and building their efficacy, strengths, and confidence. This can be a human undertaking that creates strong, respectful relationships.
Turning to some recent Positive Psychology-related publications, I considered how a person could use the ideas of positive emotions and strengths to become more skillful at appreciation.
What Do We Learn From Positive Emotions?
- Gratitude: Notice the people to whom we are grateful. Express genuine thanks, including explaining specifically what it was they did and why it was important
- Interest: Be curious, open and interested in other people. Get to know them and understand them without judgment. What makes them tick?
- Pride: Look for what makes people feel proud, what they have achieved. Acknowledge these successes.
- Humor: Lighten up. Being overly serious and critical, and focusing only on people’s problems robs us of the chance to build stronger bonds within our teams.
- Inspiration: Whose actions inspire you? Let them know.
These forms of positivity not only create a great working environment. They are also ways to make people feel appreciated and valued.
“Your positivity is energizing to those around you.” (Fredrickson)
What Strengths Make a Difference?
- Compassion: caring about people and wanting the best for them
- Curiosity: being interested, asking questions
- Emotional awareness: judging others’ emotions, feelings and picking up subtle clues
- Empathetic connection: tuning in to people, seeing their points of view
- Enabler: developing people, supporting, encouraging, and helping them to grow
- Fairness: treating people with respect and fairness
- Esteem builder: building confidence and self-esteem in others, noticing their potential
- Humility: valuing others for the help and support they provide to you, being humble and not taking all the credit
- Listener: showing a keen interest, focusing intently on the person
- Personalisation: noticing the things that make people unique
- Rapport Builder: finding something of interest in each person
- Relationship Deepener: Getting to know people and strengthening relationships
- Service: helping someone and anticipating needs
- Unconditionality: accepting people for who they are – genuinely and without judgment
If you’re thinking about how you can motivate your staff, consider how you can value them and help them to feel uniquely appreciated – in an authentic way. What would you do?
Linley, P. A., Willars, J. & Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). The Strengths Book: Be Confident, Be Successful, and Enjoy Better Relationships by Realising the Best of You.
Fredrickson, B. (2009). Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive. New York: Crown.
Rath, T. (2004). How Full Is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life New York: Gallup Press.
Stirling, J. (29 January 2011) . Workers in search of the exit. The Australian.
(Wiith thanks to my friend Bert van Halen for bringing this article to my attention)
Photos by Amanda Horne