Let Your Employees Know That You Appreciate Them

Organizations seem to really struggle with employee recognition.  There are appalling stories, like the hospital that "rewarded" all of its employees after it won a major award by giving them a coupon for a candy bar, or companies where 20 years of service is "recognized" with a cheap plastic pen, the same one given out at trade shows.

Most companies aren't quite that bad, but the truth is that it's hard to implement programs that work for the whole organization.   You have an advantage as a manager because you can customize for each employee.  Most importantly, you can identify the specific things the employee contributes to the team.  Part of why organization-wide recognition elicits eye-rolls is because it seems insincere.   Generic "great job!" feedback isn't particularly helpful or motivating.  For this action item, you'll be giving specific feedback to express your appreciation, no pens or candy bar coupons required.

Estimated time required: 15 minutes to prepare, 2 to 5 minutes per employee to execute.


  1. Jot down each of your employees' initials.
  2. Next to each person's initials, note something specific that you appreciate about what they bring to the team.  It could be their attitude, their creative ways of solving things, their expertise, an unusual skill, or anything else that contributes to the team's success in some way.
  3. Identify the specific behavior that the person demonstrates in doing the thing you appreciate.  For example, if you appreciate that one person is particularly positive, specific behaviors might be "finds the positive aspects of negative situations" or "expresses optimism that the team will be able to handle challenges" or even "regularly compliments other team members."
  4. Determine why that behavior is helpful, and note that as well.  How does the person's behavior impact the team and/or you?


  1. Find time in the next week to share your appreciate with each person.  It doesn't have to be formal.  There are benefits for both doing it face-to-face or in writing (via e-mail or a note), so choose the method that you are mostly likely to execute.  (You may also consider what might work best for the particular employee.)  Doing it matters more than how you do it.  Tip: If it's really unusual for you to say this kind of thing (or if it's not typical in your organization's culture), feel free to preface it with " This might seem a little random..."
  2. State what you appreciate and why: "I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate the way you [specific behavior].  It really helps by [impact]."  

"Hey Taylor.  This may seem random, but I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate the way you often look for the positive aspects of challenges we discuss in team meetings.  That really helps us to get in "problem-solving mode" right away instead of complaining about the situation.  I noticed that you did that last week when Acme Corp moved up our deadline and you pointed out that it will give us more time to get ready for our upcoming launch.  Thanks for helping us stay positive and moving forward."

That's it'!  No budget required, except for 15 minutes of your time. You could even make your notes the next time you're stuck in a boring meeting or waiting on hold.  

Take it to the next level: Do the same process for your peers and even your boss.  Who doesn't love sincere positive feedback?

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