How to Show Appreciation to Your Employees

With Thanksgiving this month, thankfulness is on everyone’s mind. But for employees, feeling appreciated is not a once-a-year thought. In fact, Gallup’s research shows that “employees who are not adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they’ll quit in the next year.” In today’s labor market, that’s simply not an option. So, what is adequate recognition and how can we show appreciation to our team?

What makes a “great” manager great

Great managers will show recognition for good work on at least a weekly basis. For some, this benchmark can be a challenge, especially when trying to show praise to every worker. But appreciation in the workplace doesn’t need to be only for those times when employees go above and beyond. All managers need to do is identify something good, or any behavior they’d like to see repeated and offer authentic and meaningful recognition to motivate employees to do it more often.

It could be as simple as showing up on time, wearing the company uniform, or taking proper safety precautions. Or perhaps there was a quality interaction with a co-worker or customer. Or maybe an employee has a good attitude that inspires others. Every team member does at least a few things well each week – managers need to be aware of their need to recognize these behaviors more often.

How to share appreciation with your employees

Yet when it comes to how to show thankfulness to employees, even the most experienced managers can stumble. I was fortunate to hear about and read the landmark work from Gary Chapman and Paul White in their book, The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace early in my career. As it turns out, the way you show appreciation will resonate differently for each person. Here is a brief overview.

Gifts are probably the most common (and often the most expensive) option in workplaces. Whether a cash bonus, pre-paid gift card, restaurant or spa gift certificate, a fancy watch, food, or even something homemade, things you buy for other people certainly express appreciation. And for some people, they feel extremely appreciated when this happens. But there are other equally valuable options as well.

Quality Time

This is the act of giving someone your focused attention. It could be as simple as a quality conversation or working together on a project, or as lavish as attending an event or off-site retreat together. I personally like to share a meal out with those who prefer this method of appreciation. But even if none of this is feasible, simply a phone call to check in personally can be a great method of showing thankfulness.

Words of Affirmation

Focus on the positive message that you convey. You may write a thank you note (hand-written over email for the extra touch) or public recognition in front of a group. When using words of affirmation, the focus can be either on accomplishments realized or someone’s character and attitude. Knowing the person will help determine whether private or public is the best choice.

Acts of Service

It’s all about providing help to the person we want to show gratitude toward. When offering help, it pays to ask before you do so and ensure that you are helping in the way that the recipient prefers. When we “help” by ignoring a process or stepping on toes, we’re doing more harm than good. Most importantly, follow through on any commitment made.

Physical Touch

The most controversial way of showing appreciation in the workplace is physical touch. The correct answer here would be a high five or fist bump. For some relationships, a pat on the shoulder or a brief hug may be appropriate especially in emotional times. But even a handshake can be a way to provide that human touch to show appreciation.

Know your employees

managers showing appreciation towards employees

The key to using these methods of appreciation in the workplace is to determine what the primary language is of others. We tend to express thankfulness in our own language of appreciation, yet it can fall flat if that’s the recipient’s lowest level.  

For example, I worked for an amazing company and leader for more than seven years. The one time I remember feeling the most appreciated was at a trade show. I had been walking for over ten hours carrying a heavy bag of marketing materials and was exhausted from endless meetings. On the way out of the trade show hall, my boss said, “Hey, let me carry that for you,” and walked next to me back to the parking lot. Was it simple and seemingly insignificant? Yes. Yet it made me feel more appreciated than the huge bonuses I received because I greatly prefer acts of service for appreciation. It remains one of my fondest memories of my career there.

If you’re curious about the primary language of appreciation in the workplace of your teammates, simply forward them this blog and ask what resonates with them. Or if you prefer, an assessment is available for you to learn which method of appreciation your employees prefer.

But above all, let’s make showing appreciation a weekly experience for those around us.

Neal Glatt is a Managing Partner of GrowTheBench.com. As a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and John Maxwell Certified Coach, Speaker, and Trainer, he regularly helps companies and managers find success and fulfillment in their workplace and lives. You can learn more about Neal at www.NealGlatt.com.

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