Idaho Transportation

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How can I say 'thanks?' Let me share the ways
Smart manager blows it

Reprinted at the request of Lori Millonzi,
Chairperson of the ITD Employee Recognition and Awards Committee

By David Lee, Human Nature at Work
I just had an experience that reminded me of how often even really brilliant managers neglect to use the "secret weapon" of the best managers and best employers. It’s the practice that perhaps more than anything spurs employees on to work harder.

So what is the practice that leads to a more motivated, committed, engaged workforce?

Expressing appreciation and gratitude.

Oh, by the way, lack of appreciation was cited by the Department of Labor as the number one reason employees leave their job.

Think of your own experience as an employee over the years. Think of how rarely if ever you had a boss express appreciation when you went the extra mile, worked extra hours, or done an exceptional job on a task.

Think of what a “motivation killer” that was. Even though you still worked hard and did a great job because of your work ethic and professional pride, your heart was just a little less into your work.

You probably cared just a little bit less.

After awhile, the cumulative effort of being taken for granted reaches the tipping point, and the loyal, hard working employee becomes what Gallup calls ROAD Warriors-Retired On Active Duty—or they simply looks for more appreciative pastures.

Here’s What Not to Do

First, I’ll share with you the "what not to do" story, then we’ll get to the “here’s an example of what to do” story in my next post.

Recently I finished up a project helping an organization improve their on-boarding process for sales people. One of the managers in this company—I’ll call him Justin—played an essential role in helping me understand the day-to-day realities and requirements of their new sales people. Not only was he helpful, but he was also very generous with his help, telling me never to hesitate to call if I needed more input or feedback. Throughout our working together, I made sure Justin knew how much I appreciated both the quality of his insights and his willingness to give of his time, despite his onerous work load.

When I finished the project, I told Justin I would write a letter to the Senior VP of his department, letting him know how helpful Justin had been, and what specific qualities Justin demonstrated that were so useful.

Before sending the letter out, I emailed Justin a copy—in part as another way of letting him know how much I appreciated his help—and to let him know what specifically he did that was so helpful.

I then sent the letter on to the senior VP.

A couple weeks later, I e-mailed Justin to see what the Senior VP said to him about the letter.


Not a word.

Wake up dude!

As I think about this Senior VP, who is a brilliant individual, I can’t help but think "You had this opportunity spoon fed to you to praise one of your hardest working, most dedicated, and most innovative managers and you blew it. Come on! Wake up!”

A missed opportunity

Here was a great opportunity for the VP to not only express appreciation and recognize a high-value employee, but also a great opportunity to communicate that he values the specific behaviors demonstrated by the manager.

This is one of the under-recognized benefits of showing appreciation and recognition: when you acknowledge—with specificity—the good work that you notice, you reinforce it.

Mindfulness time

OK, so what to do with this simple little cautionary tale? Practice paying attention for opportunities to express appreciation and recognition.

To prime your brain for this, you might want to think about the various people you work with right now. Think of key players one by one and consider:

* What they do that you appreciate
* How they help make your job easier or help you maximize your productivity.
* What they do exceptionally well.

Then be on the lookout for opportunities to let them know this. It can be as simple as:

“Connie, I was just reading an article about appreciation and the article was suggesting that you think of people who are especially helpful and to let them know that…and I thought of you immediately. I SO appreciate how easy you are to work with. If something needs to get done, you do it. You never complain or make it sound like an imposition. I really appreciate that.”

“Krista, I was just reading an article about appreciation and the article was suggesting that you think of people who do something you really appreciate and to let them know that. So I thought of you.

I starting thinking about how much I appreciate the fact that you really listen. There aren’t a lot of people who truly listen and want to understand what the other person is saying, and I so appreciate that you do. Thank you for that. It means a lot to me.”

Here’s an article on this topic to share with your fellow managers:

Your Employees: Do You Appreciate Them or Take Them For Granted?

Lori Millonzi
Human Resources

Published 9-25-9