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It is on everyone’s lips, the highly esteemed value of our fellow human beings – that employees are counted as the company’s greatest asset is something that many a company has taken up on its banner. Company philosophies state that the workforce is their most important potential for success. Nevertheless, many employees complain about a lack of recognition by their superiors. Why do self-perceptions and external perceptions too often diverge in this essential area?


Showing interest in others

Executives should understand how the much-said appreciation is actually defined. One of their most important characteristics is a genuine interest in others. This includes asking questions and listening attentively. Far too often we hear from acquaintances that after a two-week absence, nobody inquired at the store whether they had had a nice holiday. Or that it would be nice if a supervisor could check how well you are progressing with an important project. Stay curious about your employees, because our personality has many surprising facets that need to be discovered.

The importance of appreciation: One appreciates the value of a fellow human being, an employee. It is an inner attitude towards other people and therefore the way we treat them. It concerns a person with his whole being. In contrast to praise, appreciation is independent of a single act or achievement. While the two terms are also close in meaning, they are not to be equated: Appreciation can be understood as an umbrella term and contains different types of recognition. In contrast, praise is rather pronounced situationally.


Quality goes beyond quantity

Many managers claim to praise their employees often, but it seems that positive feedback does not always reach the recipient in the desired way. The reason for this discrepancy is often the wrong tone or inappropriate timing, e.g. between door and hinge. A praise is also perceived in a derogatory way when it is formulated ironically: “You have managed to do a good job for once”. In order for praise to arrive as such, it should also be formulated concretely for a tangible achievement, for example: “The fact that you have completed this project before the set deadline is remarkable. Congratulations”.

Another sticking point is the lack of a superior’s feeling for the individuality of his employees: To what extent does an appreciative word go down best with an employee? Is he rather introverted and is he embarrassed by praise before a group? Or does he just enjoy this publicity? In the latter case, there is also the risk that positive feedback in an entire group may be interpreted as criticism of a colleague.

Another reason for not perceiving praise is the frequent combination with criticism (“That was a great performance, but …”). Positive comments are unfortunately all too often devalued in this way. Of course, justified critical feedback should be constructively applied according to the known sandwich model (praise – criticism – praise); nevertheless, we advise leaders to often find unrestricted praise words.

Likewise, recognition has little value if it is distributed according to the watering can principle. Instead of sloppily praising his great team as a superior, appreciative words should rather be spoken to individual employees – except in the case of a group affort.

Most important, however, is the honesty and sincerity with which praise is expressed. Interestingly, we usually see through immediately when a compliment comes along only pro forma or when the recipient gets the impression that his superior has found the time again to say something positive to him.

The human longing for recognition

The human need for recognition is universal. When we listen to someone, give him our time and interest, we perceive him, literally recognize him. That is why not only employees, but also executives and managers need appreciation in order to be happy. Thus, each individual is responsible for a respectful corporate culture. Thank each other for their support, a favor, commitment, flexibility, etc.

The effect of appreciation

Employees who are valued are demonstrably more inspired and motivated; they are less likely to be absent for health reasons – both physical and mental health. Companies with motivated employees have a much lower fluctuation rate, which has a significant positive impact on productivity.

Appreciation thus increases well-being in the company and contributes significantly to a good working atmosphere. In addition, mistakes are more likely to be tolerated in a pleasant atmosphere and employees do not feel blocked out of fear of mishaps. Appreciation, however, not only reduces fears, it also helps to ensure that challenges and changes are accepted more openly. It also improves concentration, encourages, strengthens relationships and increases performance.

For the company, these factors have the effect of promoting employee loyalty – which has a positive effect on the long-term success of the company thanks to higher productivity.


Small gestures – big impact

Each one of us has the opportunity every day to meet his fellow human beings in a respectful manner – be it as a guest in a restaurant, by expressing our joy about the attentive service to the waitress, or even by paying a spontaneous compliment to a stranger. Why not send a company a thank-you e-mail as a gesture when we were being looked after in a particularly service-oriented manner? Such feedback is usually passed on to the staff and thus even promotes team cohesion.

Respect for employees can be expressed with small gestures and rituals: Those who are greeted personally in the morning or asked whether they feel better after a cold feel perceived. Or why not attach a Post-it to a team member’s screen with the words “Good luck with the customer” or put a personally written birthday card on his desk? In this way, we can all help to create a culture in which everyone gives their best and feels comfortable.

Recently I discovered photos of all employees in the entrance area of a bakery, including the year they joined and the position of the person concerned. This was the text under the oldest employee, for example: “Mrs. Meier has been our fairy godmother since 2008”. A wonderful example of how expressed appreciation of employees works: proud employees radiated satisfaction and cohesion, joked with each other, obviously enjoyed their work; their boss set a good example. And that on a Sunday…