William James, the father of psychology, stated that the most fundamental psychological need is to be appreciated. More recently, Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, said, "Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, 'Make me feel important.' Never forget this message when working with people."
We want to feel fully appreciated for our work. Unfortunately, the reality is that lack of appreciation is the No. 1 reason people leave their jobs. The direct supervisor is the primary source of appreciation (or lack thereof), the primary influencer of job satisfaction and engagement, and a primary reason people either leave or stay on the job.
Demonstrating appreciation is not a matter of time and intention; it is a matter of priority and action. That said, showing appreciation is a common blind spot for leaders - and for people in any relationship, for that matter. You no doubt feel appreciative of your team; yet predictably there is a gap between how much your team feels appreciated and how much you feel that you appreciate them.
Why is that? This disconnect exists because you likely don't convert every thought of appreciation into visible acts of appreciation. While we judge ourselves by our intentions, others judge us by our actions. What is important is not how much you appreciate people, but rather how much you demonstrate that appreciation.
A survey of 15 million people worldwide illuminates the business benefits of appreciation. This Gallup study by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton found that people who receive regular recognition at work:
- Experience increased productivity;
- Enjoy increased engagement with colleagues;
- Are more likely to stay with the organization;
- Receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers;
- Have better safety records and fewer accidents on the job
Appreciation comes down to basic psychology: Reinforce those behaviors that you want to see more frequently. Look for opportunities to recognize and appreciate your team's efforts and results. Catch them doing something right ... and do it often.