"You did an awesome job on that project, Tom."

"Susan, I'm impressed with how you handled that presentation. Much appreciated!"

"Larry, keep doing what you're doing on the sales front, OK?"

These praises might seem fairly tame, but a new report found that showing appreciation to employees carries a lot of weight. In fact, it makes the difference between how employees feel about their jobs and whether they are there to do "grunt" work and just get by until they can find a new job.

O.C Tanner, a recognition and rewards company, surveyed 2,363 office workers and found that, for those who feel appreciated, a whopping 89% feel satisfied in their jobs. That number drops to only 51% for those who said they don't feel appreciated.

In the same control group, 85% of the "appreciated" employees also said they were satisfied with life while 61% of the under-appreciated employees were not happy with life in general. The data creates a stark contrast in other areas as well, revealing that those who feel appreciated tend to be less stressed, have a better sense of belonging, and feel like they have better control over their life.

For leaders in business, the survey should be a wake-up call. Being the taskmaster who only points out problems, which is more common that you might think, only encourages employees to hide in their cubicles, keeping quiet about workplace issues and avoiding all confrontation. They are not busy working, they are busy hiding from you and trying to stay clear of the put-downs.

Yet, being the boss who praises constantly on a daily basis creates an atmosphere of healthy collaboration. People want to show up to work because they know they will be recognized for their good work. They know the boss will make it loud and clear that they've made contributions instead of making only commands that are loud and clear (and a bit like a drill sergeant on a bad day barking orders).

More importantly, when employees feel appreciated, they tend to want to work as a team and show everyone they are completing their tasks. Why is that? When employees know they will be recognized, it makes them eager to demonstrate good work habits. They feel like they are free to fail; they know the boss won't be there slapping their wrist when they make a mistake, so working out in the open with the team becomes safe and even advantageous. I've seen this countless times. Meanwhile, the under-appreciated tend to hide in the office, afraid of being criticized. Left alone, they won't stick out as much and become an easy target.

This also ties right into another survey result. The employees who feel appreciated are more willing to take on new projects. They're adventurous and tend to want to try new tactics to complete a project. The praise becomes a fuel for innovative thinking.

The under-appreciated? They're too busy sulking around trying to avoid being condemned. They don't feel safe enough to try new things.

Which boss are you? You can find out pretty easily. Look around. Are employees working together, happy to experiment and free to fail? Or are they all typing on a laptop in a dark corner. Praise draws them out of the darkness.

Published on: Sep 9, 2016