AWiB Updates Tids and Bits Why a Boss’s Appreciation Is So Crucial
29 February 2016

Why a Boss’s Appreciation Is So Crucial

JENNIFER DEAL: The importance of appreciation in the workplace is . . . under-appreciated.

Staff who feel under-appreciated are more likely to leave and find a position where they feel their contribution is appreciated. The simple answer, of course, is to show appreciation. But my research suggests that there are different ways to do that, many of which can be successful in making an under-appreciated employee feel better. Not feeling appreciated at work today is fairly common.

According to data Alec Levenson and I collected, 40% of people in the workplace do not feel appreciated at work. This is slightly true for millennials (42%) than it is of older staff (37%). It is also true for people at most levels of the organization, though, not surprisingly, lower-level professional staff are less likely to say they feel appreciated (58%) than are staff at senior manager (66%) and executive level (76%). With such high percentages saying they don’t feel appreciated–especially among younger and lower-level staff who are likely to be critical to an organization’s future success–the organization faces a substantial problem.

The good news is that it is a fixable one. Managers at all levels need to remember that while striving for excellence is important, showing that you appreciate the hard work of your staff is fundamental to engagement and retention. While managers have good intentions and typically make an effort to express their appreciation for good work, we find that employees need to be told they are appreciated more often than they are currently hearing it.

Typically people think of appreciation as pats on the back, but that isn’t the only form appreciation can take. One executive talked with us about how he isn’t an empathetic sort of person, so rather than try to be fake-friendly with the people he manages, instead he helps them with their career strategy and to secure positions they want so they can improve their career. He also works to secure them larger bonuses for hard work. His employees may not think he’s particularly chummy, but they know he appreciates them because he shows it through helping them achieve their goals and to be paid well.

Another executive talked about how frustrated he was because he wanted to promote a direct report of his because he believed that was the best way the organization could show appreciation for her hard work, and demonstrate that they thought she was one of their future leaders. Unfortunately the organization prevented him from promoting her. While the executive was furious he couldn’t change the decision, he could– and did–arrange for appreciation to be shown. In cash. And as of now, she hasn’t left.

Leaders who want to succeed and groom future leaders of the organization need to emphasize–and model–the importance of appreciation within the organization. While there are many ways to show appreciation, it can be as simple as sayings thank you often–and meaning it.

 Jennifer Deal is a senior research scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership and an affiliated research scientist at the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California. She is co-author of “What Millennials Want from Work.”

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