The Psychology of Workplace Celebration
Leaders have many roles: strategist, competitive analyst, resource-allocator, priority-setter and, of course, coach.
We’ve always heard one of the most effective way to build and lead teams is by setting a great example.
Who cannot be impressed by all those great photos of legendary General Electric CEO Jack Welch, late in his career, beer in hand, fully engaged in conversation with junior high-potential GE leaders?
There is fascinating research to support the value of the leader-as-example-setter-in-chief. The research is published by Robert Cialdini in his recently updated classic, Influence; and explored in his website, Influence at Work. (Full disclosure: I’ve long believed Dr. Cialdini’s Influence is the first text any aspiring leader or marketer should read.)
Influence examines many of the our basic instincts and how they are used in practice by businesses to affect (influence) others’ decisions.
In the chapter called “Reciprocation: The Old Give and Take…and Take”, Prof. Cialdini shows the potential power of workplace giving. Reciprocation is how “we try to repay in kind what another person has provided us”.
A classic experiment describes a university professor sending Christmas cards to total strangers…and the great majority sending return greetings to the unknown prof!
In short, when we do a favor, give a gift or extend a courtesy to others, they instinctively want to do the same, or something similar (i.e. reciprocate).
How often do you:
- Open the door for someone who previously opened a door for you?
- Drive the car or pay for lunch and have someone else say, “l’ll take care of it next time”?
- Plan not to shake someone’s hand only to do so when they extend theirs? (I bet unreciprocated handshakes are less than 1%!)
And so it goes.
It’s why we, leaders must be the people we want our Organization to be:
- Celebrate our Companies, our products and colleagues…and they’ll celebrate the same.
- Find heroes in your workplace and others will recognize their (and your) heroic work, too.
- Find (yes, go looking for) ways to say “thank you” for others’ on-the-job successes, and they’ll appreciate what you do, too.
The Golden Rule is alive and well in the workplace, because it’s hardwired in our psyches.
One early-stage venture-capital funded company was hiring at a break-neck pace; the result was a team with few close relationships and a fragmented sense of purpose.
The VP of Human Resources instituted Friday “thank you” sessions. At all-company stand-up meetings (lasting just 15-20 minutes) employees publicly thanked a co-worker for support, excellence or making a sale.
Guess what? Often the person on the receiving end of the “thank you” would reciprocate, and thank the person who had thanked them.
Guess what? Once the process began, nobody wanted to be left out.
The upshot was a huge improvement in company morale.
Lessons Learned: Give a gift, perform well, lead the way and others will reciprocate.Rick Kiley is President of gThankYou, LLC, a Madison, WI based seller of employee gifts best known for gThankYou™ Turkey Gift Certificates.