“How can I demonstrate my appreciation for you?” I asked. It was a simple question to a mixed project team a few years ago. I had no idea the responses I heard would literally change the way I approached sharing appreciation for the rest of my career.
That one question was prompted by my own new awareness: if I am showing appreciation in a way that I like to receive it, but not in a way the team member likes to receive, it might be a totally lost gesture. My intent and my impact would not align for them, and the team member could feel completely unappreciated while I thought I was doing great showing this form of feedback.
So, back to the question at hand. “How can I demonstrate my appreciation for you?”
The responses of that team were a mixed bag. One team member affirmed that my handwritten notes of thanks and encouragement were exactly how she liked to receive appreciation (I knew I liked her!). But one team member told me that the notes didn’t really do it for her, she asked that I bring her breakfast instead. Another team member said he’d prefer me to show appreciation to him by sending him home early.
All were things I could do. Not all were my natural actions, but I could make that effort. What I learned is that three things really matter in showing appreciation to our teammates:
- We have to ask each individual team member what appreciation looks like and feels like to them. Different team members have different needs in this area, including the amount of appreciation they need to hear or see to feel valued. Whether I’m leading the team or not, I choose to own the responsibility of getting to know the people I work with. Otherwise, my handwritten notes end up in the trash, and I think I’ve demonstrated one thing, but my teammate hasn’t received it.
- We have to be willing to adapt to the style that aligns with someone else’s preferences. In Gary Chapman’s iconic book The 5 Love Languages, he points out there are five “categories” to consider in demonstrating love to our spouse and I must give love in a way my spouse can receive it. In his adaptation of this principle to the workplace, the same idea applies. I need to know if it’s “words of affirmation” or “acts of service” or “quality time” that motivates my team. And even if that’s not my style, I learn to demonstrate appreciation in their preferred approach. I have also learned that specific expressions of appreciation can be helpful to creating an impact. Sometimes “thank you for your hard work,” is the most appropriate statement. Yet, we also need to share the specific impact we see a team member making. Think about how to adapt your style and about how to make the appreciation specific.
- We have to realize there is a difference in “appreciation” and “recognition.” In a blog post Chapman wrote about the workplace last year, he said, “Most companies focus on recognition and think people feel appreciated. However recognition puts the emphasis on performance… (and) misses half of their employees. Recognition is also “top-down” and often becomes routine. Appreciation, on the other hand, focuses on the person. They may not be performing at their peak, for many reasons, but when you express interest in them as a person, they are motivated to become more involved. It is the difference between treating people as machines who crank out the work and people who have feelings, frustrations, desires, and dreams. When people feel appreciated, they want to be a part of the team.”
We can all do these three things for each other up and down and across the organization. Let’s become intentional with showing appreciation. What other considerations make showing appreciation at work effective?
About the Author:
Kassi Rushing, APR, is passionate about building the Wise Firm. She dreams daily about the firm we are creating and adamantly believes HORNE is a place where team members can achieve their dreams and reach their Full Potential. You can learn more about our Wise Firm on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and at www.wisefirm.com.