by Mike Robbins, business consultant and author

Staff Retention: The Power of Appreciation at Work

Jan 18, 20086 mins
IT LeadershipMentoring

Empowering employees at all levels to do their best work can begin with something as simple as positive feedback and other gestures that show their efforts are appreciated. And it can help reduce staff turnover.

Taking people for granted is an all-too-common problem in the business world. Most of us have taken someone for granted and we only truly realize how much that employee, boss or colleague meant to us after the fact.

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According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 64 percent of Americans who leave their jobs say they do so because they don’t feel appreciated. Gallup reports that almost 70 percent of people in the United States say they receive no praise or recognition in the workplace. As a culture, we don’t do a very good job of expressing our appreciation for one another, especially at work.

Bringing More Appreciation to Work

We often waste too much time and energy focusing on what we don’t like, what we’re worried about or what we think needs to be fixed, changed or enhanced. What if we stopped this negative obsession and started paying more attention to the good stuff?

Imagine how this simple but profound shift could transform our work groups, our professional relationships, our results and ultimately our lives. Our experience is a function of what we focus on; each and every moment we have a choice about where we place our attention.

It’s important to confront, face and deal with difficulties; however, we don’t have to obsess about the bad stuff and let it run us. We each can consciously choose to focus on the good stuff and in the process, appreciate the people with whom we work.

There are great things happening in your company and with your coworkers all the time—if you choose to look for them. And, exercising the power of appreciation with your colleagues and in your organization takes some focus, practice and courage.

Five Principles for Using the Power of Appreciation

  1. Be Grateful

    Focus on the things you are grateful for at your job, your company and your overall work situation. Take inventory of the good stuff around you and be willing to let others know about it. This is not some fake, Pollyanna approach to things, just looking for good stuff and paying attention to it.
  2. Choose Positive Thoughts and Feelings

    Make a conscious decision to transform your negative thoughts and feelings into ones that empower you. This is not about avoiding the bad ones; this is about noticing your thoughts and feelings, and choosing positive ones. Our personal thoughts and feelings impact our attitudes, which ultimately dictate our actions. If more people within the organization paid attention to their thoughts and feelings and chose positive ones, the culture of the organization would change in a very positive way.
  3. Use Positive Words

    Pay attention to the words you use with others and in speaking about yourself. Speak with the most positive words possible. Our words have the power to create, not just describe. As coworkers, and especially if you are a manager, the words you use and the things you say to others have a huge impact.
  4. Acknowledge Others

    Focus on what you appreciate about the people around you and let them know. Be sincere and let others know the positive impact they have on you and what they are doing well. Whether you are their boss or not, most people are starving for appreciation—especially at work. You can empower people in an incredibly effective way by letting them know what you appreciate about them.
  5. Appreciate Yourself

    Celebrate who you are, what you do, and the many gifts and talents you have. Self-appreciation is not arrogance; it’s an awareness of your own power and the key to self-confidence, success and fulfillment. In business we have to make sure first and foremost we believe in ourselves and know what we do well. It is also important to let your boss know about your successes as a way to create more success and opportunity. Self appreciation, or lack thereof, is the foundation of the morale and culture of any team or organization. A group of people who truly appreciate themselves can produce extraordinary results.

Actions: What You Can Do

Here are a few action-oriented things you can do to bring more appreciation into your job, team or organization.

  • Send one or more thank you cards each week.

    A physical card carries a lot of weight, especially given that most of our written communication is done electronically.
  • When someone compliments you, just say “thank you.”

    This is a big one! As a way of practicing self appreciation and also to make it easier for people to acknowledge you, start accepting compliments from others. The best way to do this is to train yourself to first breathe and let in what the person is saying; don’t argue with them or blow off the acknowledgement. Then, just say “thank you.”
  • Talk about the good stuff.

    Talk about what is going well within the organization and what you like about others. A great time to do this is at the beginning of meetings. Before getting into the meat of the meeting, it is a good idea to have a few minutes where people can share good news. This is especially important to do when things are busy or extremely challenging. Sometimes we have to go a little slow so that we can go fast.
  • Acknowledge people publicly.

    This is a big one! In group settings—at meetings, by e-mail or on conference calls—it is a great idea to acknowledge people. Although sometimes they get a little embarrassed, most people like being spoken about in a positive way in front of their peers. For an acknowledgement to be effective, it must me genuine, specific and personal. Make sure to talk to the person, not about them. In other words, look at and speak to them directly (in the first person), not about them (in the third person) as if they weren’t there.

When we truly focus on this good stuff and bring more appreciation to our jobs, our teams and our companies, the organization itself transforms. We don’t have to wait until everything is handled, we don’t have to wait until we get it all perfect and we don’t have to wait for people to do things exactly as we want them to. We can start appreciating work, life, others and ourselves exactly as we are, right now.

Mike Robbins is a business consultant, a keynote speaker, and the author of the new best selling book, Focus on the Good Stuff: The Power of Appreciation. He empowers individuals, organizations, and groups of all kinds to appreciate themselves and each other.