Your Employees: Do You Appreciate Them or Take Them for Granted?

cookie bouquet of appreciation

By David Lee

If you care about employee motivation and morale, this is an important question to ask…

At a supervisory skills seminar I gave last week, a participant who was a new supervisor told the group he realized that he was thanking his people too much and that this was diminishing his credibility.

I was curious about how he “knew” it was diminishing his credibility, and asked him if it was a theory he had or if his employees actually told him this.

Neither was the case. It was the veteran supervisors he worked with who told him “it was a bad thing.”

You Mean Showing Appreciation is a BAD Thing?

I asked the group for their take on this. Another group member said she has “old school” managers at her company who believe that you shouldn’t thank employees or show appreciation and she noted:

“It shows…they have incredibly high turnover in their departments.”

Research on employee motivation has shown us time and time again that if you want disengaged employees–employees who don’t care about helping their employer succeed–taking them for granted is a great way to get there.

Few actions trigger resentment and diminished motivation faster than having one’s hard work, extra effort, and significant contributions taken for granted.

Think of your own experience as an employee. Think of times you worked weekends, put in extra hours, went above and beyond, and never got a simple “thank you.” Think of what you thought about your boss or management in general, and how you felt.

Is not bothering to show appreciation really a big deal?

According to Tom Rath of the Gallup organization, the #1 reason employees leave is because they don’t feel appreciated. Furthermore, Gallup’s research revealed that 65% of American workers reported that they had received zero recognition in the workplace in the past year.

Thus, having one’s work appreciated and recognized is:

  1. Really important
  2. Not happening for the majority of employees

So…if you’re interested in high levels of:

  • Employee Motivation
  • Employee Engagement
  • Employee Retention

Here are some actions you can take:

  1. Let them know that you read this and wondered if you showed enough appreciation. If they say “No,” ask for examples of when you dropped the ball. Make it clear that you’re not asking them to defend their position. Specific examples increase your ability to recognize future opportunities.
  2. Ask each team member how he or she prefers having a boss show appreciation. Ask them if they’ve had previous supervisors show appreciation in ways that worked for them. Some people like effusive praise, others like an understated, off-hand comment. Most want specific details about what their boss appreciated or recognized as excellent work.
  3. Let your team know that you will work on showing more appreciation. By doing this, you remove the awkwardness supervisors often feel when contemplating trying out new behaviors. “What if they think ‘Why’s she doing this? What…did she go to some seminar?'” By spelling it out, you know they know that you know you’re trying something new. Doing this also communicates that you care about how you treat them enough to want to improve.
  4. Stay on the lookout for opportunities to show appreciation, such as when an employee goes the extra mile, does an especially good job, works overtime or on weekends, makes some other sacrifice, or simply has a great attitude.
  5. If you have team members about whom you truly can’t find anything to be appreciative of, maybe you need to ask yourself why they’re still on your team. It doesn’t do you or them any good if you’re not happy with their performance. Talk to them about what you want them to improve in and help them get there or get out.
  6. When someone from another department does something especially helpful, let them–and their boss–know you appreciate it. In the same seminar mentioned above, a participant said that she makes a habit of “CC:ing” the president of their small company when she emails a thank you email to an employee who did a stellar job. By doing this, she also models mindfulness and appreciation for the president. Thus, the more you show gratitude, the more your recipients–and onlookers–will do the same to others.
  7. Cultivate an “Attitude of Gratitude.” The more we recognize and appreciate the blessings in our life and the more we express that–especially to the people who bring them–the greater our feeling of goodwill and good cheer. By doing this, we become more of the type of person that uplifts others, simply by our presence. In fact, research by University of Virginia’s Rob Cross, Ph.D. and his associates, has shown that people who are perceived as “energizers” are far more effective than those perceived as de-energizers. In fact, whether a person was seen as an energizer was four times stronger of a predictor of their performance than the next closest variable measured.

    By expressing appreciation and gratitude, you increase your energizing effect on others, and become more of a “force for good” in your organization.

By becoming more mindful of expressing appreciation and gratitude, you can have a dramatic effect on not just your employees, but your peers and even those above you in your organization.

Recommended Readings:
How Full Is Your Bucket?: Positive Strategies for Work and Life by Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton

The Manager’s Book of Decencies by Steve Harrison

Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier by Robert Emmons

About the Author: David Lee is the founder of HumanNature@Work. He is an internationally recognized authority on organizational and managerial practices that optimize employee engagement. He is the author of Managing Employee Stress and Safety, plus over 50 articles that have been published in trade journals and books in North America, Europe, Asia, India, and Australia. For more of his articles, go to

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