The Power of Appreciation in the Workplace

How do you feel when someone shows you appreciation?

I think most of us would agree that being on the receiving end of appreciation makes us feel good. We feel warm inside when someone notices something we’ve done and says thank you. We feel valued and seen, knowing our contribution matters. When we are underappreciated, the feeling is the opposite. We might feel resentful, devalued and less inclined to do a good job the next time around. The thing is appreciation is more than something that gives us a warm feeling inside. It’s a powerful leadership tool and can enhance our lives and those around us, especially at work.  

Appreciation is a powerful leadership tool. It can enhance our lives and those around us, especially at work.

The impact of appreciation in the workplace

Recently, we ran a workshop for a group of innovators. At the start of the day, we asked them to get up, move around the room and tell their colleagues what they appreciated about them and why.

There were a few groans and awkward feet shuffling to start with, but as everyone moved around and talked to their colleagues, the atmosphere changed. It was like a glow appeared in the room, coming from each individual as they gave and received appreciation.

While I watched this group show and receive appreciation, I was struck by two things:

First, appreciation is a simple, but powerful leadership tool. When we show appreciation to ourselves and to those around us it can have significant positive effects.

Second, we don’t do it nearly enough. When the group reflected on the experience, one individual said this: ‘I never knew they thought that about me.’

It’s a sad truth that many employees don’t know how valued they are by their colleagues or their leaders, because they don’t tell them.

I’d love to share how to do appreciation well, but first here are a few thoughts on why it’s worth it:

  1. Appreciation brings energy into the room and set a positive tone for what’s ahead. This improves productivity and creativity, enabling us to see new possibilities and potential.
  2. Appreciation has important physical benefits. When our systems are full of cortisol (the hormone that’s present in our bodies when we’re stressed) we find it difficult to think clearly. When we give OR receive appreciation, we get an injection of dopamine and serotonin, both of which make us feel happier and calmer. This helps to reduce overwhelm and enables our brains to work more effectively (source the P.I. Institute).
  3. Appreciation boosts joy by strengthening trust and collaboration within a team. When we are shown appreciation, we feel valued for the contribution we make and its connection to the overall purpose of the organisation. This is key to developing a Compassionate Workplace Culture.
  4. Appreciation benefits our leadership. When we show appreciation and care to ourselves, this enables us to appreciate and care for others. It also helps us form deeper relationships with our team based on trust which leads to more effective working. All these things help us develop people-centred, purpose-driven leadership.

What does appreciation look like?

Appreciation: a feeling or expression of admiration, appreciation or gratitude.’

The Merriam-Webster dictionary

We’re all unique, so we give and receive appreciation in different ways. It’s important to consider this before you explore how you can use appreciation in your work context.

For example, Caroline H and I give and receive appreciation differently.

At a recent conference we ran for a client, Caroline H shared that she feels very appreciated in her work because she’s clear about the value she brings to the business. Part of this is the fact I recognise this value in Caroline H and seek it out in her. I know for example, that she is insightful and brilliant with detail. I make sure these qualities are given opportunities to shine and grow so she can be 100% herself, and valued and loved for who she is. Caroline H shows appreciation to others with hugely thoughtful, creative gifts.

I feel appreciated when someone asks me about my work and gives me their time and undivided attention. I feel valued when people recognise what I do and thank me for it. I show my appreciation for others by encouraging and championing them and I also find great joy in giving gifts.

It’s important to seek to understand how those around you at work feel appreciated and valued. Would saying something to them in person or a handwritten note be more meaningful, for example? This understanding takes effort, but it’s worth it.

We love to use the Insights Discovery tool to help teams understand how they’re wired including how they best feel appreciated and valued.

How to use appreciation well at work

Here are some practical tips for developing the skill of appreciation and using it at work:

  1. Notice your surroundings. Pause during your workday and take two minutes to look out of the window and appreciate what you notice. How does this impact how you return to your work afterwards?
  • Practice gratitude. We love using the 6 Minute Diary and encourage all our coaching clients to do the same. You could start by noting three things you’re grateful for at the end of each day.
  • Start your work meetings by asking each person what they’re grateful for. Notice how this impacts the meeting.
  • Choose a random act of kindness to do for each member of your team. Make it personal and authentic. How do these acts differ for each team member?

Being intentional

Appreciation is a powerful tool in the context of the workplace. It helps improve productivity and creativity and helps us lead effective, engaged teams. It also has a positive impact on our physical and mental well-being at work. Overall, appreciation leads to more joy in our workplaces and creates an environment where we can all thrive and grow.

We’d love to encourage you to be intentional about bringing more appreciation into your workplace. Which of the four tips above will you try this week?

This blog is one way we love to support you, your team, and your organisation to thrive and grow. Another is through our monthly newsletter, Pause & Reflect, which is full of tips and tools you can use in your work and leadership every day. Click on the button below to sign up.

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