A Christmas/New Year’s Surprise: recognize your employees

Here’s a Christmas/New Year’s Surprise: Give Recognition & Gratitude: Part 4 of the “What Employees Really Want for Christmas” series)

“What I wanted from my employer for Christmas,” the employee said, “Wasn’t the ham the company expediter delivered. I wanted what I didn’t get, recognition and gratitude.

My employer expects me to respond to last-minute requests, to do whatever it takes, to work hard after hour, but do I EVER hear a “thank you”? No.

If you’d like your employees to rejoice, give them the thanks and recognition they deserve.

Gratitude: Recognizing your employees for what they do

If you are like most managers, you appreciate good performance, but don’t say so as often as you could. As a result, your employees may feel taken for granted. They may ask, “What am I going above and beyond for? Nobody notices or cares.”

Consider how easy it might be to take time today to tell your employees what you genuinely appreciate about how they handle their workload. “Thank you;” “I appreciate this;” “You did a great job;” “This was just what we needed;” “Thanks for coming through on this last-minute request.”

Praise costs nothing. It can mean a lot. If your employees are crushing it, thank them. They deserve it.

You benefit too

For years when conducting training sessions, I’ve led groups through an exercise I created called the endorphin transfer.

You’ve experienced endorphins, a mood-elevating biopeptide. They release into the bloodstream when you eat chocolate or chili peppers, laugh, run long distances, or have sex. Some of those activities lead to weight gain or other unintended consequences. These activities give you the pleasurable sense of warmth. That’s endorphin release.

Have you ever noticed the sense of warmth you experience when receive a compliment? Or give one?

That’s endorphin release. In many team-training sessions, I divide the larger group into teams of two and three employees, and them have exchange sincere compliments, with the guidelines that the compliments need to be honest and never cross a boundary into what might be interpreted as sexual.

In less than a minute, the noise level rises. Observers see wide smiles and hear laughter and excited voices.

When I call time, I ask, “what did you experience,” and hear:

“That was GREAT!;” “Can we keep going?;” “I’m toasty; you’re right that compliments warm you from the inside out;” “That felt good; can we do that again?”

“Of course,” I answer, “anytime you want.” Give your employee a genuine compliment, and you benefit too. It’s winter, a great time to turn up the heat.

The productivity enhancement

In organizations world-wide, employees feel the feel the effects of a highly addictive chemical. When they receive too little of this chemical, they may feel anxious or more easily frustrated.

With increases of this chemical, they feel pleasure.

The chemical—dopamine.

Dopamine stimulates the areas in the brain that process rewards and create positive emotions like satisfaction.

Evolutionary biologists credit dopamine with aiding humans’ ability to learn and survive–if you get a charge of dopamine after a successful activity, you return for another dopamine surge.

While some turn to alcohol and drugs to feel dopamine production, receiving recognition for good work also releases dopamine, creating a pleasurable feeling.

That dopamine “hit” cements the understanding that similar continued behaviors will create additional recognition and praise, resulting in more dopamine.

If you’ve met employees who play solitaire all day, they’re trying for the same positive reinforcement dopamine hit. Winning is winning. The brain experiences reinforcement wherever it originates.

The reality

According to Gallup research1, only one-third of U.S. employees strongly agree that they received recognition for doing good work in the prior seven days. Employees’ hard and best work may be routinely ignored.

Says the research, employees who don’t “feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they’ll quit in the next year.

“Workplace recognition motivates, provides a sense of accomplishment and makes employees feel valued for their work. Recognition not only boosts individual employee engagement, but it also has been found to increase productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention.

“Beyond communicating appreciation and providing motivation to the recognized employee, the act of recognition also sends messages to other employees about what success looks like. In this way, recognition is both a tool for personal reward and an opportunity to reinforce” what the employer wants to see from other employees.”

Here’s how to make giving thanks a habit

Managers who pay attention to their employees see many opportunities to give recognition. This personalized attention creates and maintains the emotional bond between employees and the manager, and the organization. This bond creates higher productivity, reduced turnover, and greater organization success or profits.

If you’re not accustomed to giving positives, make it a regular habit by putting a “+” on your Outlook calendar every Tuesday and Thursday, reminding you that if you have yet said “thank you” or given recognition to any employees, you need to up your game.

Don’t let remote work become an excuse. If you haven’t directly seen projects meriting compliments, send all your employees a quick email survey asking, “Who’s doing great work?” and “Who do you enjoy working with.” Then you can up the employee’s dopamine drench by saying, “this ‘thank you’ comes from your coworkers as well as me.”

Here’s how

Employees vary in the recognition they value. Some appreciate a manager’s heart-felt compliment, others prefer public praise, others value prefer their immediate manager alerting senior leaders to the employee’s “above and beyond” performance.

If you want to learn what type of recognition matters most, just ask.

Regardless of how you recognize, adhere to these guidelines.

  1. Recognition needs to be genuine and authentic. Words you don’t mean fall flat.
  2. Be specific. It’s better if you say, “It was great how you thought to add graphics to that report and provided an executive summary” than if you say, “good job.”
  3. Add value to your compliment by saying what your employee’s hard work means to you, his/her department or team, and to your organization.
  4. Be timely.

Other ways to give recognition and show gratitude

You give recognition when you listen. The next time you interact with an employee, turn away from other work and listen.

Check in with your employees. Genuinely ask them how they’re doing.

Consider sending one or more valued employees a handwritten note or a small gift saying, “thank you for all you’re doing.”

If you want more ideas, check out “What Employees Really Want for Christmas,” the December 21st post.

Let the endorphins, gratitude, and dopamine flow

Hard-working employees work for more than their paychecks, and deserve heartfelt, genuine, specific recognition and thanks from their managers and coworkers.

When you say “thank you” or “here’s what I value about you,” it shows respect and appreciate, and creates a positive, satisfying, productive workplace.

When you tell an employee, coworker or manager what you value about them, not because you want something from them, but because you appreciate what they’re already giving.

What will you give your employees this holiday season? How about a gift that provides employees more of what they want, need, and deserve—gratitude and recognition?

1 https://www.gallup.com/workplace/236441/employee-recognition-low-cost-high-impact.aspx

If you enjoyed this post, please look for part 1 “communicatiohttps://workplacecoachblog.com/2020/12/what-employees-really-want-for-christmas/n & connection” (12/21); part 2 “flexibility”, part 3 “empathy” (12/24); and “leadership and the way forward” (12/30/20). And, as always, I love receiving your comments and your questions in https://workplacecoachblog.com/ask-a-coach/.

© 2020, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry, Ph.D., SPHR, is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016, https://amzn.to/30V5JO6) and “Solutions”, https://amzn.to/2GYlnAN (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com). Send your questions to her at https://workplacecoachblog.com/ask-a-coach/ or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10. www.workplacecoachblog.com.

5 thoughts on “A Christmas/New Year’s Surprise: recognize your employees

  1. As ever, these are great thoughts and recommended actions! It’s amazing how many employers struggle with how to say thanks.

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