Acknowledgment at work feels great. I love to get acknowledgment for great work and great ideas. I’m sure you love to get acknowledgement at work as well. Sadly, leaders and colleagues don’t always show acknowledgement, when it is appropriate. They should! And we should do it as well. The only question left is: What is the best way to show acknowledgement?
“The greatest humiliation in life, is to work hard on something from which you expect great appreciation, and then fail to get it.” – E. W. Howe
Have you ever noticed different reactions from people when they got praised? I did 2 years ago. Together with my Team we released a new product for our customer. The new product was a hit. Our customer loves it. Together with our management they held a meeting. They praised us for the great work. I was very happy. The hard work paid off. Most of my colleagues also showed their happiness. The only exception was Stefan. He showed no sign of satisfaction. The next day I talked with him. He felt unappreciated. He was complaining because management hadn’t given us a reward. It confused me.
I would have liked a reward as well, if management had given us one. But even without a reward I felt appreciated.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy
What is the best way to show acknowledgement?
Around the same time I read “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary D Chapman. You can tell by my review that I think it’s a great book, full of great advice. I put two and two together; I realized that the 5 love languages also apply to appreciation.
With that in mind, I found many easy, specific ways to show appreciation for my colleagues and their work.
Words of Affirmation
This is the classic way how companies and leaders show appreciation. They directly tell them. In my projects, we have every morning a 15 minute meeting. The so called “Daily”. We explain what we did the day before and what we plan to do that day. When someone explains the group, he or she finished a complicated task, I appreciate that. I give them a “great job!” We can also do that in one-on-one conversations, but it is most powerful in the group. In a group context acknowledgement elevates the status of the appreciated.
It also elevates our status in the group. We become an important opinion in the group. We also frame ourselves as leaders.
Acts of service
In work context acts of service means doing somebody else’s work. The perfect example is a favor. When a colleague asks me for a favor, I almost always say yes. I do it to show appreciation. Some people tried to exploit that. If so, I say NO. I’m not somebody else’s b***h.
Another, pro-active, way is to offer your services. Last year I had a line manager who hated a particular meeting (more than all the other meetings). I offered to represent him in the meeting. It was a perfect win-win situation. He had no longer to go to the meeting. I showed him that I acknowledge his hard work and that I want to help him. Yes, the meetings were boring and exhausting. But, I learned a lot, gained much exposure in my company and connected with the customer.
My second goal, with acts of service, is to create win-win situations for all people involved. My first goal is to show appreciation. Be unselfish when you offer your services! Do you want to help yourself? Or, do you want to help and show appreciation? There is a huge difference between the two answers, even if you create win-win situations.
“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” – Voltaire
Everybody loves to receive a gift, especially for great work. Almost everybody assumes that gifts have to be expensive to show appreciation. That is wrong! Small, affordable gifts are perfect to show appreciation. Every once in a while I buy sweets on my way to work. I put them open at the team area so that everybody can have some.
I try to do that randomly or as a reward after a reached milestone. If you bring sweets periodically, it will lose effect.
Like Words of Affirmation Giving Gifts frames you as a leader.
The keywords Physical Touch imply some intimacy. That is not something we want in our professional relationships. In working context physical touch has to be brief and non sexual. As a rule of thumb, only touch arms and hands.
I like to show appreciation with high fives or a bro fists. Others prefer a slight shoulder tab or a slight punch on the upper arm.
Always combine physical touch with words of affirmation – otherwise it may seem weird.
Also, use it rather in one-on-one conversations than in group conversations.
This is the hardest way to show acknowledgment for most people. Quality time is essentially spending time together. The problem is most people don’t have the time. They are too busy. So before we spend quality time, we have to become more productive.
To show a whole group appreciation I like to play with them table soccer. (An affordable alternative could be a dartboard) I also organize a special event for my team after every major delivery to our customer.
With a colleague I take a walk to a nearby playground and we talk.
You can combine each way however you like. I try to combine as many as I can. I think combinations amplify the effect. Other than that I have 2 reasons to do so.
I don’t know the preferred love language of everybody. I don’t know the love language of most colleagues. Still, I want to show acknowledgement the best way. Thus, I try to use all languages with everybody.
I think showing appreciation should be a habit. But, if I have to find out what language somebody prefers, I create a mental obstacle. Instead, I try to make it as easy as possible to follow a habit. I combine so that I don’t have to think too much about it.
“Make it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return. Truly appreciate those around you, and you’ll soon find many others around you. Truly appreciate life, and you’ll find that you have more of it.” – Ralph Marston
Showing acknowledgement isn’t complicated. It’s easy. The best ways to show acknowledgement is by following the 5 love languages. I think I gave you enough examples you can follow or to think of your own.
Showing acknowledgment isn’t reserved for leaders and managers. It is something everybody should and can practice. It raises our status in the group and shows leadership qualities.
Have you ever appreciated the work of a colleague? If so, please tell us how in the comments section.