Your Guide to Cultivating Appreciation In The Workplace

Thumbs Up Appreciation

Pay pales! Appreciation is what your team or employee’s want! Don’t get me wrong – they won’t work for free! After all, pay is way of expressing gratitude for the work they do.

You might find it interesting that there are multiple surveys out there that reinforce the value of appreciation in the workplace.

  • com learned in a 2019 poll of workers and job seekers that 90% of Americans feel underappreciated on the job and nearly 50% say they never feel appreciated! WOW!
  • Gallup and the Families and Work Institute found that only about a third of employees are happy on the job most of the time. Hmm…imagine the dent that’s putting in morale and productivity!
  • The U.S. Department of Labor reports that 64% of Americans leave their jobs because they don’t feel appreciated. Turnover is costly! Who needs that?
  • Another Gallup poll reports that nearly 70% of the people in the U.S. say they receive no praise or recognition at work. Zilch! Nada!

The desire for appreciation is true across the board. It’s what everyone wants – at the very top, the bottom, and everyone in-between!

Here’s the kicker: what makes me feel appreciated isn’t necessarily what makes you feel appreciated! Did you know that everyone actually has their own “Appreciation Language” much like the famous “Love Languages”?

What’s the difference between love languages and appreciation languages? Well, practicing the 5 Love Languages in your personal life leads to thriving relationships. Practicing the 5 Languages of Appreciation at work creates a thriving workplace – one where employee engagement, motivation, and productivity are high. Plus, people who are appreciated enjoy work more and stick around longer!

I’m confident that you want to have a work culture brimming with positivity and overflowing with appreciation! Expressing appreciation in meaningful ways takes some creativity and intentionality! I know your time is valuable, so here are some suggestions to get your creative juices flowing for all five of the Appreciation Languages:

1. Words of Affirmation

In the work place, Words of Affirmation tends to be popular, especially when it is praise for accomplishments. That’s not the only way to convey appreciation with words. Others prefer words of praise acknowledging character traits or personality traits. Remember, it’s not just words, it’s being very specific in your praise. “Thanks for all you do” or “You are a great guy” never cuts it!

  • “Props” Day –a traditional ritual on Fridays, the last day of the month, or the last day of the quarter where the whole team gathers and shares what they appreciate about each other. This isn’t just a top down appreciation adventure, it’s an all-around adventure!
  • Create a “Rah, Rah Board” where people can post specifics about what they appreciate about each other and post them where they will be noticed. At the end of the month, toss the notes all in a hat and draw 1, 3, or more and reward either the writer of the note, the receiver of the note, or go all out and reward both!
  • Give a shout out on social media to recognize the amazing contributions a team member has made.
  • An old fashioned, handwritten thank you note.
  • Be intentional about speaking words of affirmation face to face. Make saying “thank you” a regular part of the lingo! Just make sure it’s specific as I described above.
  • Clever Candy Bars – inexpensive but can speak volumes assuming they don’t conflict with dietary restrictions! There are oodles of creative suggestions here! Plus, don’t overlook healthier options like KIND bars, Positive Cookies, KNOW Cookies (I just want you to KNOW…) or Better Than Good Snacks.
  • Pay if Forward Journal – Write a note in the journal about what you appreciate about a co-worker and pass the journal on to them. They then write a note to someone else and pass it on. Keep it going and notice the change in the atmosphere!

2. Quality Time

Hey, we all know that time is currency and when you take the time to invest with others, it speaks volumes to those who receive appreciation this way! That means being fully present and engaged!

  • Designate a Waffle Wednesday, Food Friday, or Potluck Power Days! Food is a treat and a great way to bring people together, cultivate appreciation, and show appreciation! Maybe a salad bar, pizza, make your own sundaes – the options are literally endless.
  • Celebrate!!! Birthdays, work anniversaries, reaching goals, professional achievements, personal accomplishments like successfully running a marathon or having a baby, are all opportunities for your team to connect, honor, and be honored! For those non-QT folks…perhaps acknowledging them with many of the tangible gifts or a very personal note depending on their language of appreciation.
  • Reward the team that has the biggest impact on bringing your organization closer to its mission. Not only does friendly competition motivate, this kind of competition encourages each team to see how they connect to the mission of the organization and actively participate in making it happen! What kinds of rewards could there be that would create QT? What about letting them pick an adventure of their choice – perhaps activities like a movie, miniature golf, bowling, karaoke, spa day, or pooling the reward funds and donating to a charity. Visibly tracking the progress is a great way to spur everyone on!
  • Take people to lunch either individually or as a team. Give them your undivided attention – no agenda!
  • Invite a food truck to visit for lunch, a masseuse, or manicurist – something that would excite your group!

3. Acts of Service

For some, simple ways of assisting speaks volumes! Just be sure you’re not neglecting your own responsibilities in the process of helping others.

  • Surprise! Let them go home early, take a long lunch, or come in two hours later tomorrow just because. Offer to take care of anything they might miss while they are gone. Make it fun by creating “Time Off Coupons” in 15 or 30 minute increments that can be randomly given to show your appreciation.
  • Suggestion box – It’s not enough to have the box. Actually take action to implement and address the suggestions that are offered – that lets your people know that you value and appreciate their contributions.
  • Provide the funds for your people to freshen up the break room.
  • Demonstrate your appreciation by allowing your people to enjoy “Summer Fridays” where they go home early or get the whole day off on Fridays between Memorial Day and Labor Day. You might try something similar in December when people have more going on personally and would treasure the time off. Can’t handle that much time off? Make your Summer Fridays a jeans day or business casual day.

4. Tangible Gifts

Not all gifts are created equal! Skip the company swag and hone in on a gift that would be meaningful for the recipient or recipients.

  • Extra vacation or personal time.
  • A work from home day.
  • Professional development opportunities like The LAB, continuing Education Courses, or Personal Development opportunities like BREAK THROUGH – all of which will allow your people to grow and work at a higher level. Consider chipping in half to support their goals and allowing them to take some ownership too – a win-win!
  • Provide fitness opportunities – pay a trainer to come in and do a Boot Camp before or after work.
  • Choose a gift that is specific to the person you want to appreciate – something that is related to their interests or hobbies. Other suggestions…it could be a book, gift card, music, flowers, candles, or something from Snappy Gifts.
  • VIP parking spots or paid parking.
  • Have a bring your dog to work day. Your environment not great for pets? What about bring your son or daughter to work?
  • Reward someone with coaching – not because they need to grow, but because they’ve shown great promise and you want to give them more of an edge!!!

5. Physical Touch

This one gets tricky in the workplace for obvious reasons! It’s critical to be sensitive to differing cultures and settings when expressing appreciation through touch. It never hurts to ask permission before offering appreciation this way. For example, “May I give you a high-five?” Just as babies need physical touch at birth to thrive and the elderly in later years, odds are good that a certain segment of your organization does too!

  • A pat on the back or a hand on the shoulder are universally considered acceptable ways to show appreciation
  • A handshake or a two-handed handshake
  • A high-five or fist bump

Don’t guess! Make it part of your on-boarding process to determine what communicates appreciation. You may wish to have a team meeting where you all share which of the five languages of appreciation resonates most. To follow up, have each person wear tags for a season to remind those around them what their preference is when it comes to appreciation.

If you lead, it’s your responsibility to adapt to those you serve even if they don’t adapt to you. Creating an amazing culture begins and ends with you. Challenge yourself to resist getting into a rut in how you choose to demonstrate appreciation. Over time, the meaning of your efforts will wane.

And encourage your people to practice appreciation too! It takes everyone to create a culture of appreciation!

March 1st is Employee Appreciation Day! Mark it on your calendar! Be intentional about cultivating a wildly positive place to work!

And remember, it never hurts to be generous with appreciation so extend it to clients, customers, donors, volunteers, business associates. Make it a way of life!

I want to hear from you! What’s your favorite way to be shown appreciation in the workplace?

Marvae Eikanas

Marvae Eikanas is an author, entrepreneur, ICF certified coach, Career Direct Consultant, DISC consultant, and HBDI practitioner. She helps her coaching clients sharpen their skills, face their fears, eliminate funky mindsets, hone their habits, and cultivate clarity so they can THRIVE personally and professionally. Schedule a consultation with Marvae here.

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