March 1st is Employee Appreciation Day, and the science is clear: appreciation works. Especially in the workplace. Research shows that feeling appreciated leads to better health, lower stress, and fewer sick days. It can also lead to increased productivity. One study by Glassdoor found that 81% of employees surveyed felt motivated to work harder when their boss showed appreciation.

While this may be obvious, the stunning fact is that appreciation in the workplace lags far behind expressions of appreciation in society at large. This bears repeating: we are less likely to give or receive appreciation in our workplaces—where we spend the majority of our waking hours—than anywhere else in our lives. A survey of 2,000 people revealed that while 99% of people say that expressing and receiving appreciation and gratitude at work is important, only 10% act on that impulse on a regular daily basis. Even more discouraging is that a whopping 60% said that they rarely or never express gratitude at work.

Folks, this needs to change. Expressing appreciation and gratitude is a proven positive force. It doesn’t matter where we sit in the organizational chart, saying thank you to those above, across, or below us helps everybody feel appreciated, valued, and rewarded. And the gratitude spillover effect is enormous: people who experience gratitude are more likely to feel happier and spread that happiness, increasing trust and collaboration among colleagues.

Do we all just need to say, “thank you” more often? Well, yes and no. Yes, thanking others is a step in the right direction, but empty (albeit well-meaning) platitudes can fall flat, seem insincere, and backfire. The best way to cultivate gratitude is to be intentional, thoughtful, and authentic. The following guidelines can help you be a master at appreciation:

• Treat everyone as an individual. Each person likes to be recognized and acknowledged in a different way. One person might like to be recognized in front of the group at a department meeting while another would appreciate a personal, handwritten note. Get to know your team. If you’re not sure what someone would prefer—just ask! Remember the Platinum Rule: Treat others as they would like to be treated.
• Make time. Appreciating others does not usually float to the top of our to-do list on its own. We have to be intentional and make a point to show how grateful we are on a regular basis. Make it part of your discussion at feedback sessions with your staff or set aside time each week to send a few emails to those who have made an impact.
• Pay attention. People not only want to be recognized for their achievements but also valued for their inherent worth as a person and colleague. Pay attention to things that you appreciate about your colleagues and tell them! Is it their positive attitude? Their punctuality? Their attention to detail? Tell them what you appreciate about them as people.
• Be authentic and specific. No recognition at all is better than an insincere platitude. Giving everyone the same note or generally acknowledging a team’s hard work can come across as fake and could actually lower morale. Think about how each person contributed to a team’s effort or how a staff member really stood out this past month and include those specifics in your thank you.
• Establish a culture of gratitude. Make space for gratitude in your workplace. Add time for appreciation in your regular team check-in, or put a whiteboard in the breakroom for staff to write appreciation notes. Take the lead in making gratitude a consistent part of your office interactions.

No Time Like the Present

Has Employee Appreciation Day caught you by surprise? Don’t worry, the good news is that a little goes a long way, and it’s never too late to start. Most of the time saying thank you doesn’t cost a dime and doesn’t take much extra effort. Here are 7 simple and inexpensive ways you can show your appreciation—today!

1. Say It: Show appreciation in person, face to face. Make it personal and heartfelt.
2. Write it: When was the last time you received a handwritten thank you note? Exactly. Handwritten notes are rare and valued.
3. Shout it: Try giving praise and appreciation publicly. This can be accomplished in a meeting or in a group email.
4. Treat it: Buy a little treat for your team. Pick up some donuts or bagels on your way to work today. No need to spend a fortune—everyone loves a little thank-you treat.
5. Leave it: Give them a surprise day, morning, or afternoon off. The gift of time is always appreciated.
6. Eat it: Take someone to lunch or out for a coffee.
7. Gift it: Say thank you with a gift. Pick up a small gift card on your way to work. They come in all denominations and are sold nearly everywhere.

Don’t let today pass by without giving someone you work with a big hearty thank you!

By Mary Abbajay, as pubished in Forbes on 28th February 2019

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