Showing appreciation has a positive impact on personal performance and therefore represents a massive and underestimated growth opportunity for organisations. 

When people feel appreciated it unlocks their discretionary effort, which means the quality and output of their contribution improves.  A culture of appreciation also sends messages to other employees about what success looks like.

In addition, a culture of appreciation enhances an organisation’s employment brand and employee value proposition, which assists in the recruitment and retention of top talent.  Researcher David Yaden, found that people thrive when they think their work matters and they receive validation from their organisation and co-workers. They are more satisfied with their job and life overall, they are more likely to be promoted, and they are less likely to resign.

Think about the last time you were genuinely appreciated at work.  How did you feel and what impact did it have on your work?  Most people report feeling:

  • Valued and not taken for granted.
  • Connected
  • Accomplishment
  • Happy
  • Positive
  • Excited
  • Optimistic
  • Confident
  • Proud
  • Focused
  • Engaged
  • Strong and energetic

However, according to recent research conducted by Gallup, only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days! So why is it that we find showing appreciation or giving recognition so hard?

Evolution may be one reason for this.  Roy F. Baumeister, a professor of social psychology at Florida State University, co-authored an article Bad Is Stronger Than Good (Review of General Psychology, 2011).  The article states that those who are “more attuned to bad things would have been more likely to survive threats and, consequently, would have increased the probability of passing on their genes.” Furthermore “Survival requires urgent attention to possible bad outcomes but less urgent with regard to good ones.” 

What Baumeister is saying is that for survival reasons we have a predisposition to notice and focus on the things that aren’t going so well.  This can make showing appreciation a secondary consideration in the workplace and one easily forgotten.  But this shouldn’t be an excuse for not showing appreciation.  Understanding this trait provides us with an opportunity to ‘consciously’ re-orientate our attitudes and behaviour.  This awareness is particularly useful for leaders. 

Professor Baumeister also noted in his study that, “Many good events can overcome the psychological effects of a bad one.” In fact, he quotes a ratio of five goods for every one bad.

This is consistent with the ratio of positive (appreciation) to negative feedback leaders should be giving their people.

But wait there’s more…appreciation doesn’t just create a positive experience for the person receiving the appreciation; It also has a positive effect on the person giving the appreciation. Neuroscience has demonstrated that giving in an altruistic way is a powerful way to create more personal joy and improve overall health.  When we give by showing appreciation  the neurochemical drivers of happiness (dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin) are released. 

There are many benefits to starting a culture of appreciation at your workplace and you don’t have to be to be in a leadership position do it.  Many great movements start from the bottom up.  So, go out and make a conscious effort to ‘appreciate’ someone in your team today! Take a moment to reflect on how it made them feel and notice how it made you feel.  Then, do it again!