Why Appreciation Matters

November 26th, 2015

What is the one thing that leaders can do for those who work for them that will contribute more to productivity than anything else we do?

Take an attitude of thanksgiving back to work! Stop and say, “Thank you.”

In an article in Harvard Business Review entitled “Why Appreciation Matters So Much,” Tony Schwartz writes,

Whatever else each of us derives from our work, there may be nothing more precious than the feeling that we truly matter—that we contribute unique value to the whole, and that we’re recognized for it.

Feeling genuinely appreciated lifts people up. At the most basic level, it makes us feel safe, which is what frees us to do our best work. It’s also energizing. When our value feels at risk, as it so often does, that worry becomes preoccupying, which drains and diverts our energy from creating value.

The Stress in the Workplace survey of over 1,700 employees conducted by Harris Interactive for the American Psychological Association found that employed adults who report feeling valued by their employer...

  • are significantly more likely to report they are motivated to do their very best for their employer (93% vs. 33%)
  • are also more likely to report they would recommend their workplace to others (85% vs. 19%)

On the other hand, those who do not feel valued…

  • are significantly more likely to report that they intend to seek employment outside of their company next year (50% vs. 21%)

Given the cost of replacing an employee, showing appreciation makes good economic sense. It also makes spiritual sense for leaders who want to lead in a way that pleases God. 

God created us to long to be valued. It’s in our DNA and can’t be ignored. In his stirring essay, “Weight of Glory,” C.S. Lewis reminds us what we were created for, to hear the divine compliment, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” 

To please God ... to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness ... to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.

Our desire to be appreciated, praised for our work, according to Lewis “is no mere neurotic fancy,” but the truest index of what we were created for. And all day long we are reminding or distracting people from that reality by the way we treat them, appreciate them, praise them for the work they do.

Here’s more wisdom from HBR: Mark Goulson tells us how to give a person what he calls a Power Thank You.

  1. Thank them for something they specifically did that was above the call of duty. For instance, “Joe, thanks for working over that three-day weekend to make our presentation deck perfect. Because of it, we won the client.”
  2. Acknowledge to them the effort (or personal sacrifice) that they made in doing the above. “I realize how important your family is to you, and that working on this cost you the time you’d planned to spend with your daughters. And yet you did it without griping or complaining. Your dedication motivated everyone else on the team to make the presentation excellent.”
  3. Tell them what it personally meant to you. “You know that, rightly or wrongly, we are very much judged on our results and you were largely responsible for helping me achieve one that will cause my next performance review to be ‘over the moon,’ just like yours is going to be. You’re the best!”

Okay. It’s the week after Thanksgiving. Let’s take that attitude of gratitude from the holiday to the workday and surprise someone with a heart-felt, "Thank you." And if they get a little choked up, remember, you’ve just given them a little taste of heaven.