It’s a Christmas classic. Every year people enjoy the journey of the Grinch -- from acting like a ninja-level curmudgeon to repenting his ways and then saving the day.
The Grinch remains an interesting character. He’s so filled with anger and resentment that it clouds his vision and certainly his judgment. He embarks on a journey that he thinks will fill the hole in his small and fragile heart.
Yet the results leave him cold and wondering why there was no joy or satisfaction. It's not until his aha moment that things change for the better.
Now apply this to the typical workplace. Sometimes, the “grinches” are easy to spot. They are the cold, angry, miserable people who can steal happiness just by entering a room.
And there are also those who have what I call an “inner grinch." Although these folks appear to be brimming with good intentions, something isn’t right. They think that their superficial attempts to interact with others, especially in terms of granting recognition and appreciation, are just fine. Their inner grinch whispers to them that the mug with candy they give, the few words of faint praise at a staff meeting or the token gift card for the local gas station will fully satisfy the recipient. In reality, they are stingy and cursory in showing appreciation.
Their inner grinch steers them away from realizing the power of genuine appreciation by blinding them to opportunities to praise, recognize and lift up those who could use encouragement. Sometimes this turning away is on purpose. Maybe it’s arises from old unresolved conflicts or a lack of understanding of other personality styles at work.
Yet, despite all that they try to do, these individuals are discouraged by their results. They had hoped that bestowing recognition would work out better. They have looked for but haven’t seen any significantly positive results resulting from their shotgun approach to appreciation. Then they become disillusioned, questioning whether this appreciation stuff really works at all.
Eventually, since they feel that their efforts have been ignored (or rebuffed), they make negative assumptions about their co-workers along these lines: “They don’t really care” and “They aren’t that great, anyway." They turn into appreciation grinches. Their inner grinch steals away their ability to see the truth that not all forms of appreciation are created equal.
What they need is an aha moment, when their inner grinch stops trying to force-feed appreciation to others in a way that's important to them. They need to take the time to understand what the real issue is: Not everyone feels valued and appreciated in the same way.
Part of this aha realization could come from learning to use tools that enable them to discover what truly makes their people feel appreciated. I shared in my book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation at Work, five ways that people could show others they're valued -- through words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, tangible gifts and physical touch.
When taught to give individualized and authentic appreciation -- what others truly value -- the inner grinch fades away from a person and a new colleague emerges. This renewed person, who once dismissed and ignored the need of providing authentic appreciation, is now able to lead the charge in making sure everyone feels uniquely valued and encouraged.
That's a journey everyone can appreciate.
Dave Tippett, the director of on-site learning and consulting at The Employers’ Association, contributed to this piece.