“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”

William James

People need to feel appreciation. Especially now, when all of us are “doing more [and even more] with less;” the yearning to feel appreciated is intense in every workplace.

Pre-recession research from the U.S. Department of Labor revealed that the main reason people left their jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated. And in one Gallup Poll, 65% reported that they had received no recognition for good work in their workplaces.

During the current recession, employees have been thankful just to have a job. But, as the economy picks up, we’re seeing indications that “thankful for a job” does not mean “satisfied with a job.” According to Manpower, 84% of working individuals plan to find a new job this year – up 24% from a year ago. In 2011, the thing most people want to change is their job.

Douglas Matthews, president and chief operating officer for Right Management, a division of Manpower, called the results “a wake-up call to management…This finding is more about employee dissatisfaction and discontent than projected turnover,” he said.

Want to work with people who are positive and proud of what they do? Let them know you appreciate them:

  • Soon Provide the recognition and appreciation as soon after the actual performance as possible. The connection between the performance and the acknowledgement is weakened if too much time goes by in between.
  • Say It G.B. Stern said, “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.”
  • Sincere Describe why you appreciate the work done. How does this help you, the customers, the organization?
  • Specific Describe the behavior or action that was appreciated. Being specific clarifies and personalizes the appreciation.
  • Make it Personal Learn how your individual employees like to receive recognition. Do they prefer to be praised in public or in person? Tell them soon, sincerely, and specifically why their work matters.
  • No Surprises Let people know what kind of behavior is expected. It shouldn’t be a guessing game.
  • Acknowledge the Every Day Contributions Show appreciation for “just doing their job.” People are less likely to feel “taken for granted” if their work on everyday tasks is acknowledged.
  • Recognize Effort Don’t wait until the task is complete. Acknowledge the effort made.
  • Ask “How Can I Help?” Let them know you are there to help if needed.
  • Ask for Their Input People feel valued when their ideas are heard and considered.
  • “Thank you.” Use these two words often, not just as a common courtesy, but as a way of connecting and recognition appreciation for work done well.
  • Praise Peers Praise from someone you work with, not for, has a powerful impact.
  • Praise Up Bosses, supervisors, and owners benefit from praise too. And all the bullet points above work up the organizational chart too.

Margaret Wheatley said that “In organizations, real power and energy is generated through relationships. The patterns of relationships and the capacities to form them are more important than tasks, functions, roles, and positions.” Showing appreciation is essential to building relationships.

This isn’t an article just for managers or leaders. Everyone, in every organization, needs to be more generous with expressing appreciation, giving praise, acknowledging effort, and offering support. We all need to be more generous in recognizing the contributions of others. As the economy improves, those organizations that haven’t built relationships with their workforce – one person at a time – will just be left behind in the rebound.

Jeri Mae Rowley, MS Human Resource Management, is a professional speaker and master trainer. She would be absolutely delighted if you shared this article with others.