With all the professionalism and political correctness in today’s workplace, we sometimes miss out on the fact that people really want to feel appreciated — and a 'thank you' is all it sometimes takes.
A very close friend of mine is Eleanor, who is a teacher and probably one of the most conscientious and hard working people I know. Eleanor goes beyond what is expected of her every day to make sure she brings out the best in every child in her class. She is happy to plan her lessons until late at night to make sure they are exciting and engaging.
All her official feedback and performance reviews have rated her as outstanding. What might surprise many, however, is that Eleanor has just quit a job she loves because she feels unappreciated. Instead of all the formal but impersonal feedback, all she wanted was some appreciation from another human being…
But she didn’t get it.
Our local school and children are suffering a major loss, because the people managing Eleanor didn’t act like people. They didn’t do the one thing all of our mothers probably told us to do when we were kids: they didn’t say thank you.
Making 'thank you' part of your vocabulary.
Mary Kay Ash, the business woman behind one of the most successful direct marketing companies ever, said, “There are two things people want more than sex and money: recognition and praise."
You might be thinking that this isn’t groundbreaking management advice, but ask yourself this: How often do you tell your employees or the people you work with thank you? When was the last time you actually used those words?
If it’s been longer than you’d like to admit, here are some tips to make praise and recognition a habit.
- Make praise and recognition part of your schedule. Actually set aside 10 minutes a week to say thank you to your employees and coworkers. It could be as simple as shooting off a three line email that thanks them for their work or contribution.
- Remember to CC other supervisors. It’s great to thank someone, but it’s even more powerful to let their superior know they’ve done a great job as well.
- Encourage a culture of recognition by setting aside time during meetings to thank people and encourage employees to thank each other. If they see you doing it, they’re more likely to thank one another.
- Handwrite a thank you note whenever possible. Imagine how amazed and impressed your customers or vendors will be if they receive a handwritten note from you? In this digital age, that personal touch means more than ever.
- You may have heard the phrase, “Punish in private, praise in public,” and it’s a good rule to follow. When you can, recognize people in front of their peers for a greater impact.
Toy maker Mattel has an institutional recognition program called “Rave Reviews,” through which employees can give one another a certificate of recognition — that’s good for a free coffee or soda at the company’s cafeteria. American Airlines offers frequent fliers (customers) the ability to hand out “Applause” awards to employees who go above and beyond. These are interesting ways of making recognition part of every-day life, but there is also a danger that they turn things into institutional processes – rather than a personal message.
Make sure your next ‘thank you’ comes as a message with real meaning from one human being to another.
As always, let me know your thoughts on the topic. How can you make recognition and praise part of your company or division’s culture? I’d love to hear your ideas and views in the comments below.