Everyone Deserves to be Appreciated
Appreciate: “to recognize how good someone or something is and to value him, her, or it”
Are You One of Them?
Under-Appreciation & Burnout
The Centre suggests that employers include setting reasonable and realistic expectations for employees, making sure they have the necessary skills to meet them, helping employees understand their value to the organisation, and assessing the workload for those who feel pressured to remain working beyond normal business hours.
The Fundamental & Underlying Need
At the basic level, we all need to meet two human needs:
- The need to be validated
- The desire to be appreciated
Ace the Appreciation Game
- Make It AuthenticAuthentic Appreciation:
- affirms the value of each member of the organization;
- help them function better and grow in their competencies;
- gives team members the energy and stamina to overcome the obstacles encountered in everyday work life;
- communicates directly at a personal level between team members, rather than the indirect impersonal messages typically sent in an unhealthy workplace;
- serves as a “repellent” and protects against negative influences that can damage the members of the community, and
- displays genuine affirmation—not faked displays of praise to just “look the part” of being an appreciative superior or colleague.
2. Build Cultures of Connection
Underlying the need for workplace appreciation is perhaps a more fundamental problem of superficial relationships and the lack of social connection. UCLA neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman describes social connection as a “superpower” that makes individuals smarter, happier and more productive. Michael Stallard, thought leader and expert on workplace human connection, suggests that leaders should examine whether attitudes, uses of language and behaviors at the workplace are drawing people together and connecting them or if they are creating a relationally-toxic environment that pushes people apart. Stallard added that cultures of connection are best for individual well being and helping companies thrive. In the long run, stronger connections lead to higher employee engagement, superior decision-making, greater innovation and greater adaptability of employees to cope with changes.
3. Communicate Appreciation is Not Flattery
Accept: “to consider someone as now belonging to your group as an equal”
Make no bones about it – flattery is different from showing appreciation. The former is fake and insincere while the latter is the real deal; genuine and sincere. I like to think of it as conditional acceptance versus unconditional acceptance. We may flatter someone because we may think it is helpful to “rub shoulders” with him or her and get into his/her good books – The purpose of flattery is then conditional on our original motive. When we appreciate someone, it should be heart-felt; we recognize the person for his or her self worth and not try to gain something out of it.
The difference between appreciation and flattery? That is simple. One is sincere and the other insincere. One comes from the heart out; the other from the teeth out. One is unselfish; the other selfish. One is universally admired; the other universally condemned.” — Dale Carnegie
4. Appreciating a Difficult Colleague
To be honest, showing appreciation can be harder than it sounds, especially in Asian cultures where people tend to be more reserved. It certainly isn’t easy for me! Nonetheless here are some useful tips from Dr White to get started:
- If it’s fake, don’t do it
Don’t try to act like you appreciate someone if you really don’t. Most people have very sensitive “radar” and can sense when others aren’t genuine. You may risk undermining any trust with your colleagues if they don’t think what you are saying or doing is authentic.
- Consider both sides of the coin
In one column, list down some reasons why you have a hard time appreciating certain colleagues. What is it that you don’t like about them or what do they do to irritate you? What don’t you understand about them? In the next column, write down their strengths. Evaluate their weaknesses in light of their strengths; remind yourself that nobody is perfect. Don’t let some negative characteristics blind you to their strengths.
- Get to know them a little bit better
Appreciating or valuing someone can be difficult when you don’t know much about him or her. Try finding out more about their background, hobbies or life outside of work to strengthen areas of connection.
- Value the person, not the work
This is perhaps the most important for me. The core component that leads to appreciation is valuing something about the other person that is not linked to his or her productivity at work. For example, we can value a person for having “helpful” characteristics such as having a cheerful demeanour or being able to stay calm in stressful situations. We can also value a colleague who has the discipline to exercise one hour each day, or another who is a committed volunteer who sacrifices her sleep to improve the lives of the less fortunate.
- If it’s fake, don’t do it
Make the Appreciation Count
Two months ago, at the end of a mandarin church service, church elder Jason welcomed all the newcomers, as is his usual practice. But rather than keeping it as a “blanket” welcome, he went the extra mile of acknowledging each by name e.g. “we also have Linnette in our midst.” Did he come across as genuine? Absolutely so for me. Beyond the feeling of sincerity, it gave me a warm fuzzy sensation as if I were being hugged – I knew I was accepted and appreciated even if I wasn’t contributing regularly to this community.
To help support burned-out employees, The Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace in Canada suggests that employers develop a plan which includes asking employees how best to recognise their successes and victories. This could include immediate and personal praise, opportunities for growth and development, public recognition or incentives.
Easy First Steps
To overcome hesitance at showing appreciation, try making tiny goals. Perhaps it could be offering to pray with a colleague who suffers from migraine or writing a thank you note to a co-worker who made the effort to cheer you up with home-baked goodies. If you are supervising a team, try providing opportunities for your team (e.g. celebratory team lunches) to genuinely bond with each other and thank your teammates.
Instead of waiting for the next Secretaries’ Week or Bosses’ Day, why not show some appreciation to your co-workers today?
There is good in everything, if only we look for it.” — Laura Ingalls Wilder