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5 Ways To Spark Happiness In Your People In The New World Of Work

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at October 3, 2021

It’s not surprising: People like to be acknowledged. When you feel overlooked, taken for granted, or invisible at work, you’re certainly not feeling happy. In fact, the only thing that might make you happy in those situations is fantasizing about jumping ship. If you don’t want to take my word for it, there’s plenty of research to support the value of acknowledgement and appreciation in the workplace.

Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics, and his colleagues conducted a study in which participants who received a modicum of acknowledgement were more productive and demonstrated greater perseverance in a repetitive task than those who received no acknowledgement.

In Glassdoor’s Employee Appreciation Survey, 53% of respondents said feeling more appreciation from their boss would help them stay longer at their job. Appreciation is core to being human: we need validation of our efforts, which are an extension of who we are.

The reverse is true as well. A lack of recognition has been linked to significant negative effects on employee engagement. Research by O.C. Tanner Learning Group revealed that 79% of employees indicated that a lack of appreciation was a factor in their decisions to find employment elsewhere. Yet another recent survey, this one conducted by PromoLeaf, found that 33% of workers who feel unappreciated are actively searching for a new job. With the great resignation making retention a particular problem, acknowledgement has taken on a new urgency.

When employee happiness increases, engagement and productivity follow suit, and being validated is the key. Oprah—the queen of acknowledgement and empathy—put it this way during a Harvard Commencement Speech: “The single most important lesson I learned in 25 years talking to people every single day was that there’s a common denominator in our human experience: we want to be validated.”

Unfortunately, acknowledging your people and demonstrating your appreciation seem daunting now that we are in the new world of work—the distributed environment where only a few or maybe even zero of your people are collocated with you. Being able to pop your head in someone’s office to say, “I appreciate your ever-positive attitude. It really makes our meetings more productive,” is often impossible.

Yet that kind of acknowledgement is more important than ever as “remote” has become ubiquitous. Despite the perceived hurdles, the solution isn’t as difficult as you might think. A study from Workhuman found that 53.9% of respondents claimed a simple “thank you” could ease the pressure around performance while working remotely. So how can you generate this performance enhancer and pressure reducer meaningfully, in today’s isolating work environment?

Here are a few simple habits to develop to ensure that you’re exuding appreciation—and sparking joy—for those around you, no matter which time zone they’re in:

1. Listen. One of the most impactful things you can do for your staff is also one of the easiest: listen. Stop multitasking, look directly at the person (or at your camera on the screen), and genuinely listen to them. Show them that you are giving them your undivided attention and make an effort to discern what’s not being said as well. Listening is one of the most important communication skills there is, yet we are rarely focused on mastering it.

2. Get to know them. To be truly authentic and make your acknowledgment more meaningful, make an effort to get to know your people—to really know them. Carve out time to talk with them about their lives, their passions, values and aspirations. When you really understand who they are and what’s important to them, your expressions of appreciation will be more appropriate and potent.

3. Tell them why you value them. Be specific, proactive and spontaneous. Don’t wait for them to accomplish a task or complete a project. It will positively affect how your team members feel about themselves and your relationship with them. Right now, spend some time thinking about each member of your team. What trait or characteristic do you admire or appreciate in them?

4. Check in. There’s a quote I use all the time that’s often attributed to Teddy Roosevelt: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It’s such a great reminder. Check in with the people you work with. Asking “How are you doing?” and really wanting to know the answer will show them that you care.

5. Help them get to know each other. If you’re leading a team, creating a culture of acknowledgement will help amplify the powerful benefits. That means you need to create opportunities for them to get to know each other—and to showcase their unique personal brand. Training programs that create interaction among team members and help them discover unique traits in themselves and in others (such as emotional intelligence, personal branding or presentation skills) is a great way for them to be able to connect and, ultimately, to acknowledge each other authentically.

These days, it’s easy to feel like an anonymous pile of pixels at work. But your team is composed of people, not pixels. Focus on acknowledging each other’s attributes, accomplishments, unique contributions, and value, and your team will start to feel human (and happy) again.   

William Arruda is a keynote speaker, author, co-founder of CareerBlast.TV and creator of the LinkedIn Profile Type Indicator (LPTI) which measures your LinkedIn profile likability and credibility.


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