The Right Way to Show Appreciation at Work

Research shows that just 45% of people feel appreciated at their job.

Published: Jan 23, 2020

People today have plenty of reason to be unhappy in the workplace. They’re working longer hours, experiencing loneliness at greater rates, and not seeing much financial gain to boot: salaries, after inflation, are predicted to grow just 2.1% globally this year, according to the Korn Ferry 2020 Salary Forecast. But experts say there is still way to help make it all worthwhile in 2020: a little appreciation.

There’s a distinction between recognition, which is about what you do, and appreciation, which is about who you are. Workers need both kinds of praise to feel engaged and perform at their best, but they don’t get enough of either. Gallup data shows that only one in three U.S. workers have received recognition for doing good work in the past seven days. And according to another study, only 45% of people feel appreciated by their companies.

Most of us have received recognition before that could have been for anyone.

Here’s how to make your colleagues feel truly valued.

Check in “just because.”

Much of appreciation in the workplace is about making people feel like human beings, not just human “doings.” Show a colleague you value them by asking how they like a project they’re working on, or follow up on something they told you about their personal life, like their kid’s first day of school. “Connection is the secret ingredient in appreciation, and it costs you nothing,” says Nancy Von Horn, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. And while it may seem logical to save recognition until a job is well done, career experts say highlighting little milestones, or even letting someone know you see how hard they’re working, can help increase motivation.

Be specific in your praise.

Most of us have received recognition before that could have been for anyone. “Vague words or a random gift can feel as if someone is checking you off their list, and the recognition falls flat,” says Von Horn. Instead, recognize something concrete that happened. For example, “Leo, I know you stepped outside your comfort zone when you volunteered to lead that client presentation. You’re going to rock it.”

Be someone’s evangelist.

One of the most powerful ways you can make someone feel both recognized and appreciated is to be their sponsor without being asked. Whether you’re a leader or a peer, share what makes that person great when they’re not in the room. If you think they’d be perfect for a special assignment or promotion, speak up. And don’t forget to let them know you mentioned them—everyone loves to hear when people are saying good things behind their back.

Don’t rush appreciation.

It takes time to show appreciation for someone, because as in any relationship, it takes time to know them on a deeper level. You need to learn things like their motivations, their strengths, what keeps them engaged, and why they like certain projects more than others. If you want to appreciate someone and you can’t think of any of their unique qualities, it’s best to stick with recognition until you know them better.

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