Cultivate Blog

Posted by Jenny McGee on 11/1/22 8:00 AM

Gratitude is the gift that keeps on giving. Appreciating and recognizing people in your organization is not only a way to boost morale—it’s a smart business investment, too. Mindful, forward-thinking business leaders who are wise and generous enough to make it a year-round practice will be rewarded with healthier and more robust companies.

The benefits of expressing appreciation are well-documented. One study found that regular and deliberate effort to record one’s gratitude improves a range of outcomes related to mental health and overall well-being. Yet, for a variety of reasons, people are hesitant to show appreciation in their professional lives. A survey conducted by the John Templeton Foundation, which also funds an Expanding Gratitude project at UC Berkeley, shows that people are least likely to express appreciation in the workplace—despite feeling the desire to be recognized more often themselves.

In this week’s blog feature, our team demonstrates why companies everywhere have to get over whatever is holding them back from employing recognition in the workplace. After all, appreciation should be a central framework for building a company culture where all people feel valued and recognized.


The neglected art of constructive praise

Two workplace surveys reveal why praise is actively neglected in the workplace. In general, most managers confess that giving negative feedback to direct reports is stressful, and 21% avoid doing so. Yet, surprisingly, 37% of managers also admit they also avoid giving positive reinforcement.

This reluctance to verbally recognize people in the workplace stands against a great deal of research on the benefits of positive feedback. According to Gallup, employee engagement, whose managers focus on their strengths, is more than double that of employees whose managers focus on their weaknesses. IBM’s Smarter Workforce Institute, in a survey of over 19,000 workers in 26 countries, found an even higher disparity and also concluded that recognition could dramatically improve employee retention.


Gratitude builds relationships

Perhaps executives and managers might be more likely to dish out praise if they framed it not as feedback but as part of a larger process of building meaningful relationships. Appreciation is a powerful concept. It goes beyond praise and positive reinforcement. Showing gratitude involves showing vulnerability. It is not easy to acknowledge that we need someone’s expertise and work ethic, but doing so is a sign of strength, not weakness.

In his research on gratitude, Adam Grant addresses the parallel concept of social worth. In a fundraising call center, he and a colleague found that a personal visit from the manager—explaining the value of the work the callers were doing and thanking them for it—resulted in a 50% jump in the number of calls made. They concluded the difference was not due to increased self-efficacy (feeling competent and capable) but to a sense of being valued.

Gratitude is not just about building relationships between you and your employees but also between employees and the organization as a whole. Four in five (81%) employees report they are motivated to work harder when their boss shows tangible appreciation for their work. The same goes for peer-to-peer recognition, which has been proven to boost morale, teamwork, and efforts to fulfill the company mission. When companies foster a culture of appreciation, and it becomes a regular organizational practice, employees will feel both appreciated and valued. Their productivity and engagement will increase by leaps and bounds—along with your bottom line.

Show appreciation for the whole person

It can be tempting to limit praise and appreciation to a single task or project. After all, every organization has its strategic objectives, and leaders have to ensure that employees are contributing toward meeting those objectives. However, in an economy where change and disruption are the norms, employees feel a growing need for other kinds of support.

The Gallup study cited earlier found that employees are looking for more than just good communication about their roles and responsibilities at work. They want to feel comfortable approaching a manager about a range of subjects, whether work-related or not. “A productive workplace,” the authors conclude, “is one in which people feel safe—safe enough to experiment, to challenge, to share information, and to support one another.”

Concrete ways of showing appreciation for an employee as a whole person include offering flexible work arrangements when appropriate, recognizing them with a gift of their choice, and a willingness to support employees in their overall life and career goals. Business leaders who present themselves as more of a partner than a boss positively impact their team’s happiness and outcomes.


The only thing better than verbal gratitude

Articles about gratitude often stress that it involves an investment of time and effort, but not necessarily of money. That is true up to a point. Yet it is essential to keep in mind that tangible rewards can make expressions of gratitude more compelling and memorable in the long run.

A Glassdoor Employee Appreciation survey reinforces many of the findings summarized above. Appreciation is the most powerful driver of employee motivation, loyalty, and job satisfaction. The survey also finds that gifting is the most effective way to show people appreciation. Respondents rated gifting and other unexpected rewards well ahead of other expressions of gratitude. Today’s workforce expects more than a transactional relationship with the organizations they work for. They want to feel their work has meaning and that their contributions are valued. Gifting is a crucial piece of that puzzle. 

Thanksgiving falls at an opportune time on the calendar. This is the perfect season for companies to begin weaving appreciation into the fabric of their organizations. Soon, companies everywhere will take stock of the past year and set Q1 goals for the coming year. With the help of our team of Gifting Experts, we can help you deliver tangible appreciation people will love, use, remember, and want to reciprocate. Connect with our team to learn more about Online and On-site Gifting Solutions.

Topics: Culture

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