We all want to be associated with a
winner, be it a winning person, a winning team, a worthwhile cause or a
successful organization. We all have sports people, teams, actors or
artists that we consider "ours". When they do well, we bask in their
reflected glory. It's the same at work - we want to be associated with a
worthwhile "winning" organization. Our greatest reward is receiving
acknowledgment that we have contributed to making something meaningful
happen. More than anything else, people want to be valued for a job well
done by those they hold in high regard.
A famous study by Lawrence Lindahl in the 1940's came up with some surprising results. When supervisors and their employees were asked to list "What motivates the employees?" . . .
- Employees listed "appreciation of a job well done" as number one and "feeling in on things" as number two.
- Supervisors, on the other hand, expected the employees would rank these two items as eighth and tenth respectively (supervisors thought employees would put wages as number one and promotion number two!).
These results were replicated in similar studies in the 1980's and again in the 1990's. In another recent study, employees were asked to rank job-based incentives - "personal thank-you's" came first and "a note of appreciation from my manager" came second. "Money" came in at 16th!
Praise, the thing that motivates us the most, takes so little time and costs nothing! Famous management writer Rosabeth Moss Kantor once said "Compensation is a right. Recognition is a gift."
Have you appreciated the work of others lately? Has the value of your own work been appreciated? Here's a quick test - over the last week, have you:
- Told someone they have done a good job?
- Looked specifically to find someone doing something well? - Made someone else look good rather than taking the credit yourself?
- Thanked others for your own success?
- Passed on positive comments you have heard about others?
These are simple examples of the things we need to do regularly to acknowledge the good work of others.
You might say, "If it's that easy, why don't more people do it?" There are many reasons, but they all fall into two categories - personal and organizational.
On a personal level, many of us are not comfortable giving praise. We may be awkward about it, or perhaps believe that people are paid to do a job, so why do we have to praise them?
From an organizational perspective, it may be the culture that is holding us back, or perhaps technology preventing us from valuing the work of others. For example, technology has changed the way many of us operate. Email may have replaced personal interaction, so we no longer see what others do well - out of sight is out of mind, so how can we praise good work if we don't see it?
Here are six ways we can put praise for a job well done back into our working lives.
1. Look for things people do well and acknowledge them for their good work.
2. Be a model of acknowledgment - show others it's OK to give praise.
3. Have a conversation with a colleague about how to give praise for work well done.
4. When people have performed above the norm, write them a small thank you note.
5. Encourage others to thank one another and pass on stories of good work to your manager.
6. Work to create a culture of appreciation - make acknowledgment part of your daily routine.
The essential point is that praise must be frequent and given locally (by colleagues and managers). It should not be seen as a corporate initiative or program, but merely "the way we do things around here".
What's not been said so far, is that praise must be genuine. People in general are very good at spotting insincerity. The message? When you do praise someone, make sure it's for the good work they have done and not just for the sake of it.
A final word of warning. Many organisations turn acknowledgment into an event. They distort it with extrinsic motivators (such as money) and taint it with internal competition. Pure and simple, giving praise for a job well done is just that - pure and simple.
So, find someone doing something good today and simply tell them what a good job they've done!
Copyright © 2006 The National Learning Institute
About the Author:
Bob Selden, of the National Learning Institute, likes to consider himself a "motivator".