Making Appreciation Stick

A common question I am asked by those trying to help create a culture of appreciation in the workplace is: “How do we continue the efforts over time so that a real change occurs?”  This is always an encouraging question to be asked because it points to the individual’s desire to really make a difference in their workplace rather than just “go through the motions” or do a “one and done” training event.

Let me share five guiding principles that can help appreciation “stick” in your workplace:

  1. Utilize small actions over time.  As a friend once mentioned to me, “Most of life is daily.”  That is, our lives are made up of singular days and individual actions within those days.  Culture occurs as a result of thoughts and interactions between numerous individuals over time.  Therefore, the way to impact your work culture is to try to do a series small actions over time.  Small actions could include a commitment to communicating appreciation to a colleague every day, creating or posting some visual symbols in your work area, working to incorporate some aspects of positive communication (thankfulness, a positive report) in team meetings. 
  2. For appreciation to be viewed as authentic, it needs to be about the person, rather than being just a generic act that could apply to anyone.  Find out how your colleagues like to be shown appreciation (give them a code to take the Motivating by Appreciation Inventory) so you can identify not only their language of appreciation but the actions that are meaningful to them.  Then work to communicate appreciation to them using those actions.
  3. Be specific in your appreciation.  Global statements like “Good Job” have little impact.  When you help a person out, spend time with them, give them a small gift, make sure they know what they do or a characteristic they have that you value.  The more specific you can be the more likely they are going to view your act as genuine (and remember it).
  4. Appreciation is not just “top down” but among colleagues as well. We’ve learned over the years that while appreciation from one’s supervisor or manager is valued and meaningful, most employees also desire to know that they are valued by their colleagues.  An important indication of this is that you don’t have to wait for your supervisor, manager, or other leader to “take the lead” in appreciation.  Regardless of your position and role, start communicating appreciation to those around you (including your supervisor!). 
  5. Change requires both structure and spontaneity.  Culture change requires a combination of structured activities (for example, times during team meetings to share positive stories or models showing appreciation in front of the team) as well as spontaneous interactions. On a day-to-day basis.  Structure without spontaneity results in a cold mechanistic feels. Spontaneity without structure rarely lasts over time. 

Finally, the most important factors to help appreciation “stick” in your company’s culture is to utilize the resources that are already available (versus trying to create them) and be committed to working the plan over time.  Please be sure to visit our website (and revisit it, because we are creating new resources all of the time) to see the resources which are available to you. (Go to both the “Learn” and “Train” subpages.) In fact, we’ve just created a follow-up resource entitled, “Making It Stick that provides additional discussion questions and activities to use after a group has gone through the Appreciation at Work training.

Just like any successful journey, making a difference in your workplace is made up of numerous steps over time. The process of reaching your destination of having a positive culture of appreciation may take a while — but the benefits are worth the time and effort!

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