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Employee Engagement

How Hard Is It to Say Thank You? I’ve Got the Cure!


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Right now you are asking yourself, this has to be a trick question, right? It’s just two little words that roll right off your tongue and of course it’s easy to say.  Unfortunately, in the workplace today the correct answer is ‘it’s very hard’. These two short words are among the most difficult for most people to express. Saying thank you is quickly becoming an extinct practice, both in the workplace and in society in general.

This problem begins at the top of an organization and doesn’t get much better as it works its way through the hierarchy. CEO’s and other top leaders often don’t take the time to say thank you and acknowledge the great work of their managers and their respective teams. It’s often easier to sit on the executive floor with their doors closed than to walk around and visit with staff. 

Frontline managers, who often aren’t appreciated themselves, then tend to pass this bad behavior trait on to their employees. Managers expect people to just do their jobs, and in theory that should be enough, but it isn’t.  Employees are motivated by achievement and also by recognition. There’s a reason why engagement and recognition are often talked about together. Isn’t it human nature to want to be recognized for doing a good job? It strengthens your loyalty and connection to the organization, key components to being engaged at work.

In addition, if you spend every day doing your job well and get no positive feedback, you start to question why you are working so hard. Without consciously meaning to, people who feel underappreciated begin to disengage from the work and ultimately the workplace.

The Cure

Recognition doesn’t necessarily need to mean money or gifts. It doesn’t have to be the same for everyone.  One size clearly does not fit all when it comes to recognition and managers should take the time to find out from each of their employees how they feel about recognition – and what kind is most motivating for them – then follow through when it is earned.  Here are some easy-to-implement recognition tips that should be in every manager’s back pocket:

  • Start with a recognition strategy that identifies the employee behaviors you want to reinforce
  • Handwrite a note of thanks for a job well done. It’s so much more meaningful than doing this through an email or quick hallway conversation
  • Create a ‘graffiti wall’ in your work area with a white board or corkboard where anyone can come by and write a note of thanks or praise for their coworkers. The only rule is: nothing negative.
  • Tie a balloon to an employee’s chair with a note of thanks
  • Give someone a spot award ‘in the moment’ for a job well done, it could be something simple as a Starbucks gift card or flowers. It’s the immediacy that means the most.
  • Let others in the organization know of the great work your employee did by publicizing it through a company newsletter or intranet site.
  • Create a silly department award such as a stuffed animal or toy that gets passed around monthly based on achievement, which the winner can display in their workspace.

My call to action for all of us is to pick one new person today to acknowledge and recognize for something they did. It could be someone that reports to you or the barista who made your coffee or the bus driver who got you to work.  It’s not only going to make their day but you will feel amazing as well when you see the smile on their face.  

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