Somedays, don’t you just wish you had a magic wand that would make everything better with the people you work with?
A magic formula, a secret potion that would make the work go better, and your working relationships run smoother?
Guess what? There is!
One of the simplest yet most effective practices to improve your working relationships is to acknowledge the people around you. It’s easy, fun and also substantially helps in creating more positive working relationships.
Though the two are often confused, acknowledgment is different than praise. Praise expresses your opinion, your evaluation of another person’s behavior: thumbs up! Praise sounds like, “Great job, Jose!” and “I like how you did XYZ, Sunita.”
Acknowledgment instead names a specific behavior, quality or attribute and its impact on you, the other person, the project, the team or the organization. Acknowledgment can sound like this:
“Jose, when you led the meeting today, you really made sure everyone got a chance to speak their mind. I think we’re all clearer on next steps now.”
“Sunita, your ability to get us focused on the details really helped the team get more accomplished today.”
Don’t get me wrong: there’s a place for praise. Praise provides feedback about your opinion about another’s actions: that you liked it. Giving praise isn’t a problem; but know that it only provides a limited amount of information for the other person.
Acknowledgment instead gives specific feedback on the other person’s impact so that they know specifically which of their actions, behaviors or qualities led to a positive and desired outcome. Acknowledgment is a powerful tool at work because you let people know what you value in them and what you want to see repeated.
And through your naming specific behaviors and the positive impact you experienced, you essentially hold up a mirror for the other person and allow them to learn more about themselves through your feedback. Using acknowledgment regularly can lead to more positive interactions with colleagues, reduced conflict at work, as well as improved trust and respect in teams.
Try acknowledgment out yourself:
1) Play a game: How many people in a day can you acknowledge? Challenge yourself. Your colleague. Your boss. Your spouse. The clerk at the cash register. The bus driver. Your arch enemy. (And, for extra credit, practice acknowledging yourself.)
2) Vary it: How many different ways can you give an acknowledgment? In a conversation, in a written note, a voice mail, in an email, as part of a speech, at a staff meeting….Try them all.
3) Model it: When you receive an acknowledgement, be sure to model the appropriate response, which is: “Thank you.” (Not: “Oh, no, no, really…let me tell you why that isn’t true…” Not: “OK, now let me tell you something great about you…” Just: “thank you.”)
4) Learn from it: Notice what happens to you and to the recipients when you start using acknowledgment regularly. Pay attention to what happens in the moment, as well as later on. Note that this is a different way of communicating, and can take some practice before it feels entirely natural to either give or receive acknowledgment.
In the Comments below, I’d love to hear your thoughts on acknowledgment!
1) What’s the best acknowledgment you’ve ever received? What was the impact on you?
2) When you’ve acknowledged someone at work, what positive impact did you notice on your working relationship?
Hanna Cooper is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.