Everything was fine, or so you thought. Out of the blue one of your team members just snapped. This was really surprising since this person is generally easy going, friendly, people oriented and very accommodating. You watched in horror as this person sat in your team meeting and went from active participation to silence to contributing sarcastic barbs.
Wow, what happened? This team member just completed a significant deliverable. Shouldn’t she feel relaxed and happy? The very first item on today’s meeting agenda was to discuss her status.
Oh, wait just a minute. Did you simply note her deliverable as completed or did you take a minute to thank her? Some people are not just motivated by salary, advancement and challenging opportunities. Some people receive more value from positive reinforcement and recognition than they do from a monetary reward. Money comes and goes and has no meaning in itself but is valued only for what it can buy. Praise, on the other hand, stays in a person’s memory and continues to bring pride and pleasure for years.
At their best, a person who is motivated by appreciation can be creative, warm and charismatic. They can be very clear communicators. Other people will be drawn to them and they frequently play the role of team peace keeper. They like to help people, not only for the thanks they get but because it fulfills them to make someone happy or help someone meet a deadline.
If a person who needs to feel appreciated believes that appreciation is not forthcoming, they will become disgruntled. The first time they feel unappreciated they may shrug it off, thinking they’ll be complimented or thanked in the future or when they finish the next deliverable. When that appreciation still isn’t expressed, they begin to feel hurt and that hurt turns into resentment. They may internalize hard feelings until they burst forth in big dramatic ways, usually much to their horror. The embarrassment of an outburst just feeds their resentment. They may allocate their time and attention to areas where their need for appreciation is fulfilled. They will not be motivated to do their best on your project because you apparently don’t value their work.
Some people will let you know that they need appreciation. These are the people who complete something, tell you about it and then when you do not say ‘Thank you’ they say ‘And by the way you are welcome!’ Not everyone will be so obvious. Most people feel that if they have to solicit appreciation, it’s not sincere and therefore invalid. If you are in the habit of expressing thanks to your team, you may never have an issue; if you are not in the habit of expressing thanks to your team you may have a problem. People don’t get fulfillment merely from doing a job well, but from the recognition of their efforts and praise for their skills.
Maybe you’re not good at expressing your appreciation to your employees. Do you get flustered or feel shy when you start to thank someone for a job well done? Verbal appreciation is always appreciated, especially when it’s given in public where everyone can hear it, but if you’re not comfortable with that you can be inventive. A written memo of thanks is a powerful motivator, something the recipient can proudly show their co-workers or family. A letter of commendation in their personnel file is another excellent way of showing appreciation and again, they will receive a copy. Appreciation of this type is also something that they can use to complement their resume.
Another way to show appreciation for a job well done is a small gift if your budget allows. A gift certificate for a car wash or a free dinner is always welcome. Some managers show their appreciation with motivational pins shaped like stars or other items of significance, awarding them for jobs well done. At some firms you can see employees proudly wearing such awards and the more of them they have the more valued they feel.
Even if you personally do not crave appreciation, remember that others do, it never hurts to say ‘Thank you’.
About the Author: Margaret Meloni, MBA, PMP, is an executive coaching consultant for IT professionals. She helps project managers and teams work together better by improving their soft skills. Learn how to successfully combine your technical and soft skills in her webinars from The PDU Podcast (www.pducast.com) and from her website at www.margaretmeloni.com.