When’s the last time you told your [fill in the blank] that they matter to you? 

I’m not talking about saying “thank you.”  That’s too easy and too habitual.  Nor am I talking about overall general gratitude which, although most definitely a good thing, has become ubiquitous.  I’m talking about expressing your sincere and specific appreciation to someone in your work life who’s done something that you value. 

People in positions of authority in the business world can sometimes find it awkward to use positive emotions.  Why?  Well, maybe it’s because they feel their authority might be undermined, or maybe they’re concerned that such expressions of appreciation might be perceived as “soft and fuzzy” instead of professional and impersonal.  Or it could be a male-female thing, where a male boss fears an accusation of sexual harassment when complimenting a female employee, and vice-versa.  Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious issue.  (And a subject for another time.)  

When we make it a priority to notice what’s working well, we shift the focus to positive reinforcement rather than self-esteem-reducing criticism.  And let’s face it, we all have the opportunity and the ability to appreciate our co-workers, irrespective of whether we’re the CEO or the intern who’s just beginning to learn the ropes.  Correspondingly, we all need to feel valued from time to time.  It tends to inspire us to try harder to keep up the good work.

Want some suggestions on how to show your appreciation at work?  Here are a few ideas:

  1.  Check in with a co-worker, “just because.”  Ask how her project is going, or ask her if she likes her car.  The subject doesn’t really matter, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be work-related.  The connection you make is more important than anything else.
  2. Arrange for a weekly “shout out” to acknowledge anyone who’s been particularly successful or helpful.  This can be done in a staff meeting, in an email, or by posting a notice in the lunchroom.  Be specific about the nature of the good work.
  3.  And speaking of the lunchroom, an occasional pizza or a dozen bagels courtesy of the boss (or the company) is a great way to show appreciation.  We all like to eat!
  4. Showing appreciation also means encouraging valuable feedback.  Why not go old school and install a suggestion box?  Of course, make sure you have some ground rules, or the constructive suggestions might get lost in a sea of sarcasm.
  5. Express your appreciation publicly for a job well-done.  Post something on social media, or on your website, or put a framed photo of your “colleague of the week” in a conspicuous place.  Telling the world adds credibility and value.

If your company has a policy for shout-outs to the team members, please share it with me.  And if you wish your company had such a policy, please share that with me as well.  Maybe we can install a suggestion box??