Saying something nice to employees (and doing it well) isn’t a squishy soft skill without hard benefits. It’s a critical aspect of leadership and business success.
Even a quick look at recent headlines shows that civility, positivity and gratitude are sorely lacking in the workplace today.
“Does HR Have a ‘Humanity’ Problem?” — that was the question an HR Dive headline posed earlier this week. It was prompted in part by the BackChannel essay, “Human Resources Isn’t About Humans.”
The title of the BackChannel essay is tongue-in-cheek. In fact, author Karen Wickre argues, HR is about humans — or it should be. She makes suggestions for how HR professionals can cultivate a more humane workplace.
She calls for an investment in emotional intelligence training and managers who consistently lead by example day in and day out. All employees need to get the message “that their culture rewards empathy and social skills.”
“People who are empathetic, inclusive and employ people skills to good effect should be recognized for progress and victories when they occur, and this recognition should matter for promotions and new assignments,” she writes.
HR Dive’s Ryan Golden agrees. Employees need to be acknowledged for doing the right thing, he says: “In the scramble of the day-to-day, good deeds and Good Samaritans often get lost in the sauce. Executives who are serious about creating a pro-social culture won’t shy away from seeking out those stories. Thank You notes are awesome!”
Thank You notes are awesome, and so is simply saying something nice!
Sounds great, but you may be wondering … what does “nice” mean in this context? And are some compliments more effective than others?
Workplace Gratitude 101: How to Give a Good Compliment
The best compliment is the one you really mean, so it’s worth spending a moment contemplating what your employee or coworker means to you.
Compliment star employees, yes, but don’t forget about the employees who fade into the background — their quiet diligence and attention to detail make your business run smoothly. They’re often the last to receive praise, so be sure to include them on Say Something Nice Day.
Seek out a specific example of excellence to compliment. Ask yourself…
- How does the person’s work ethic or work quality inspire others?
- What did the person do most recently to exemplify the company mission?
- Does the person have soft skills that are key to our business?
- How does the person demonstrate good leadership, even if an entry-level employee?
- Why does the employee’s excellence matter to me personally?
The core of your compliment must be why it matters. It’s not enough to say someone did a great job hitting the monthly sales goal, for example. Help them understand why their work is meaningful to other people, or why their method for getting it done stood out. Be clear.
Certainty and clarity are essential to motivating employees, according to the Harvard Business Review article “How Leaders Can Push Employees Without Stressing Them Out.” Obviously, clarity is especially important when talking about job function, lines of reporting, compensation and significant changes within the organization, but it’s also helpful when recognizing employees.
Lastly, say “Thank You.” The magic words.
Compliments are the cornerstone of workplace gratitude. Yet many leaders are still resistant to regularly practicing gratitude, according to HBR.
When Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman studied results from workplace surveys and 360-degree reviews, they found that managers were more likely to avoid giving praise than to avoid giving criticism! Thirty-seven percent admitted they didn’t give their teams any positive reinforcement.
Don’t be that boss. Get up and walk around to talk to people, thanking them for helping on a project, hitting a sales goal, bringing in a new account or staying late. Putting resources, money and praise behind their efforts will alert colleagues that the firm cares about supporting people who do good work.
Even if your company already has a strong culture of workplace gratitude, a little more can’t hurt. Gratitude feeds more gratitude, so inspire others to follow your lead.
One more thing: have fun giving your compliments! Mix it up a little — share your compliments in person, via email, social media or handwritten Thank You note, or over the phone.
Workplace gratitude is serious business, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be playful with it.
Free Resource: Your Day-to-Day Employee Engagement Calendar
We all need inspiration to spread workplace gratitude daily. gThankYou’s 2017 Day-to-Day Employee Celebration Calendar gives you the tools and inspiration to build a culture of appreciation every day of the year. Be inspired; download yours today, absolutely free.
“In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day — or to celebrate each special day.” – Rasheed Ogunlaru, coach and author
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