I still have the email. It's been years since a highly placed corporate boss, who had the reputation and approach that things were never quite good enough, sent it to me. He was long on critique and revisions; short on acknowledgement and appreciation.
Anyone else reading his message would deem it ordinary. No flowery words, no glowing adjectives, no verbose flattery or deliberate feel-good rhetoric. It was written in a matter-of-fact, straight-to-the-point style that took three sentences.
Yet its mark was indelible. Not because his appreciation was infrequent, but because it was genuine. While it was an out of the ordinary contribution he acknowledged, the message didn't come in a signature-pen form letter "from" him via HR, nor was it composed and sent by an executive assistant. It came from him. He took the time to notice, comment, and engage. That simple email reconfirmed my commitment and spurred my enthusiasm.
It doesn't take much to let someone know they're valued. So why it is that so few people take the time to do it?
According to an online survey, being appreciated is the highest reason, excluding total compensation, that causes people to stay in positions. Yet, most respondents reported feeling undervalued at work. When they did feel appreciated, the majority reported it came from coworkers, not bosses.
This is not new-news. But the response to many similar inner-company surveys or consultant trend reports is the roll-out of another company-wide program offering a one-size fits all approach in an age of personalization and have-it-your-way customization.
Most people don't want (or need) plaques gathering dust or gadgets that aren't used for long. What they want (and need) is real-time valuing. They want someone to notice and appreciate they gave up their weekend plans to finish that last minute project, or willingly took on the responsibilities of that open position, designed and executed a great idea that improved internal processes, or worked tirelessly to serve a key client or accommodate a change in business priorities.
They want their contributions to be seen; to know that what they do at work matters. We all do.
People who are winning at working know it's simple things that communicate to others that their work makes a difference, that they're appreciated and valued. It's simple things that build trust, engage minds, and ignite talents.
It's simple things like a specific and meaningful thank you, device-free dialogues, or ongoing communications with both the good and not so good news reviewed. It's the job well done email, or the this-size-fits-you approach to career development and recognition. It's simple things like seeing people as whole people, not interchangeable parts, and letting actions communicate what's valued at work.
People who are winning at working realize that offering meaningful appreciation and recognition is not a program. It's not a once a year increase, a Thanksgiving Turkey or a holiday gift card. It's an ongoing mindset and way of operating. It's noticing, honoring, respecting, acknowledging, and genuinely appreciating others' contributions to the whole.