A Little Bit of Encouragement Goes a Long Way


When I was young I was fortunate enough to have parents who enrolled me in a multitude of activities: soccer, piano, ballet, tap, volleyball, basketball, Girl Scouts, horseback riding, cycling, even trombone (I mastered two notes and discarded it). I only ended up truly loving a couple of those but through them all, I learned a lot. One of those things was the value of encouragement.

There they were on the sidelines, in the audience, in the bleachers, on the bikes next to me cheering for me and telling me I could do it. Family, friends, family of friends. If I got hurt I knew someone would rush to make sure I was okay. If I made a mistake (you score a goal in the wrong net ONE time…) they’d remind me that everyone makes mistakes, it was okay, and I’d do better next time. Don’t even get me started on the snack times: our fans take turns bringing enough drinks and fruit for everyone on the team!? Granted those fans are parents but, how good were those juice boxes?

Merriam-Webster defines encouragement in three ways:
1. The act of making something more appealing or more likely to happen;
2. Something that makes someone more determined, hopeful, or confident;
3. Something that makes someone more likely to do something.

Am I saying that all it takes for someone to do something is encouragement? No. But encouragement can empower people to try new things, be creative, make mistakes, and accomplish more. Yes there are those amazing people who fight to excel to prove someone wrong, but wouldn’t it be great if instead they had someone encouraging helping them?

People’s work lives often lack encouragement. Last week I passed on a piece of advice someone had given me about staying positive when surrounded by negativity: remember you can only control your own contributions. Instead of looking around and asking who is cheering you on at work, think like JFK and ask, “Who am I cheering on?”

How to encourage others is simple in theory but sometimes awkward in practice. You don’t have to make a glittery “You’re #1!” poster to wave around or bring in a snack for the whole team (although, I’m sure it wouldn’t go to waste). Start small.

1. Compliment people on their work.
2. Show an interest in what your coworkers are doing. There are times when I’m not sure exactly what my coworkers’ jobs entail. How discouraging must that be? I can ask questions about projects they’re working on. If they need help and I have time, I can offer my assistance.
3. Acknowledge achievements. In my office, project often go on for long periods of time as higher priority items quickly come up. To actually finish a project is a big deal. I can recognize this accomplishment.
4. Praise someone, even if it’s uncomfortable. Stephen Colbert’s thank you to Jon Stewart is an excellent example. (Stewart starts feeling uncomfortable around marker 3:18.)
5. Thank people for their efforts. Work is hard sometimes. People help each other out and sometimes that help is taken for granted. A sincere “thank you” can go a long way.

These are just a few encouragement techniques I’m trying to use more often at work. Do you have any you’d like to share? How do you cheer for people? How do you like to be encouraged?

Jocelyn 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.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Juana Williams

Sharing some of our govloop stickers! In a government setting where money incentives don’t exist, little perks like ordering a “new” chair or writing a thank you note for assistance with a computer glitch or even sharing govloop stickers can bring a smile to someone’s face and they know they were appreciated.

Brenda Dennis

Right on. Encouragement also means validation that you are on the right track. People need that bit of feedback to feel confident.

Pam Boynes

I always thank co-workers who have fulfilled requests and when they do it ahead of deadline I include that in my thank you. Since 90% of my communication is by email, so are my thank yous. As often as I can, I Cc their supervisors as well so their good work is noticed by the person who evaluates their performance.
My best days are those when someone tells me I made them smile.


That’s a great idea to CC their supervisors! I know I wouldn’t tell my supervisor, “I helped a coworker with a computer problem today,” but it’s nice to know that they know. Great tip!

richard regan

Encouragement also entails understanding culture as a set of rules for problem solving, relating to others and surviving in cultural settings. The thumbs up picture associated with this post is certainly not encouraging to most Muslims and some South American countries where the gesture is the equivalent to the meaning of the middle finger in Western culture.

Inherent to encouragement is he ability to reframe our own cultural norms in order to understand others and their unique languages of appreciation. I guess GovLoop does not think that is important.


Excellent point on being culturally sensitive Richard. Thanks for sharing; you’ve helped educate people in the GovLoop community, myself included.

Becky Latka

Good article – I agree! Little signs of appreciation add up! One of the “appreciation awards” in our office is clothing or gear with our logo on it. This does cost some money, but there’s a range of cost which makes it accessible (e.g. caps with a logo for $9).