employee appreciation

If you want to grow your business, you’re going to need great employees. Want great employees? Treat them right!

If you read the front page of The Tennessean’s July 12th business section, you came across my full break down. If not, you’re in luck. Here it is.

“Bosses Should Appreciate Employees”

Business owners spend a lot of time and money finding, then training good team members. Sadly, that investment often goes to waste because owners don’t show their appreciation often enough. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, lack of appreciation is the number one reason that employees leave their jobs. It’s not benefits, bonus structure or salary. It’s simply feeling that hard work is not recognized or appreciated.

Appreciation sounds simple, right? Wrong. Both professionally and personally, most of us have challenges with appreciation, especially when it comes to receiving it. For instance, think about the last time someone paid you a compliment. If you’re like the average person, you probably shrugged it off with a dismissive comment.

“You like my shirt? Oh, this old thing?”

A response like this makes the person who complimented you feel less than great and less likely to compliment you again. The correct response to a compliment is always a simple, “Thank you.” Try it next time.


Giving and receiving appropriate appreciation is a skill most business owners should exercise far more often than they do. Luckily, the opportunity to work out your appreciation muscle is almost always available. The next time a team member does something good, tell him or her how much you appreciate it. Here are the rules though: Be specific, be genuine and deliver it in-person with enthusiasm.

Instead of sending an email that reads, “Good job today Sam,” go to Sam’s office and say: “Hey, Sam, I really appreciate all of the thought you put into that graphic. It really enhanced that presentation and made the difference in us getting the business.” Believe me, Sam will not only continue to produce thoughtful graphics, he will escalate his all-around productivity.

Here are the caveats. Appreciation cannot be contrived and you should never reward mediocrity. This will devalue appreciation and make your appreciation attempts worthless.

As I said, appreciation is a muscle that you can build upon. Another way to do this is by scheduling “group hugs.” In this sort of “group hug,” you organize an appreciation exchange among your team members in which each member comes prepared to the meeting with notes of specific appreciation. This exercise builds morale and motivates team members to work toward receiving “group hugs.”

A third technique to enhance feelings of appreciation is by changing the way you correct a team member. Most importantly, don’t berate the offender. Instead, have a conversation where you begin with a positive, and then express the issue. Many employers have heard this advice, and they try to follow it. Where they go wrong is by using the word, “but.” For instance, “Sam, you’re always great about communicating with your client, but…” You see, when you use that word, you diminish the initial compliment. To fix this, replace “but” with “and.” This allows Sam to keep the positive feeling, and not feel crushed with what follows.

When I suggest increasing appreciation in a big way, I’m often asked, “Can you over-appreciate? “Can appreciation create complacency?” I’ve thought about this one and cannot imagine how. Think about it. The last time someone told you that you were good at something, did you stop doing it? No. You continued the behavior and even focused on additional improvement. No human being can give or receive enough appreciation —period. Furthermore, you have an opportunity as a business owner to make a positive impact on someone’s life. Do it.

Andy Bailey is lead entrepreneur coach with Petra, a business coaching firm. He writes a column every other Thursday in The Tennessean on achieving small business success. Reach him at andy@petracoach.com.


This article was originally published in The Tennessean.

Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/31065898@N08/8220970905/”>jairoagua</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-