“Vibrant”: full of energy and enthusiasm. Spirited, lively, energetic, full of life. The vibrant workplace connotes energy, positivity, and growth —characteristics we desire for the environment where we spend the majority of our waking hours.
A vibrant workplace draws people to it—quality, talented employees want to work in a healthy context and become a part of the life-exuding process. Employees bring their own gifts and unique personalities to add to the synergy in a dynamic work setting. A vibrant workplace is the antithesis of how many work environments are described: negative, energy-sapping, and toxic to growth.
Employees Don’t Feel Appreciated
Why is there such a theme of despair in most workplaces? Because people want to be appreciated for what they do at work. But, unfortunately, most people don’t feel appreciated at work.
In fact, while 51 percent of managers surveyed across several companies felt they were doing a good job of recognizing employees for work well done, only 17 percent of the employees who worked for those managers felt appreciated by their supervisor. Thus, there was a wide discrepancy between how the managers felt they were doing in providing recognition, and what their employees experienced.
This pattern contrasts with what employees report they desperately desire:
Over 200,000 global employees were studied by the Boston Consulting Group, and the top reason they reported enjoying their work was “feeling appreciated” (#2 was having a good relationship with their supervisor, and #4 was that they had a good relationship with their colleagues. Financial compensation didn’t appear until #8).
Four out of five employees (81%) say they are motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work.
A vibrant workplace isn’t a perfect, utopian organization that is without struggles or challenges. In fact, the vibrant workplace actually can exist in the same external conditions as a toxic workplace. But somehow, this particular culture has found ways to resist and repel negative influences, to train team members to build healthy internal processes, and to continually put forth positive energy toward the organization’s goals.
How does all this happen?
In The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, we identify five “languages,” and then give action steps for each one. The languages of appreciation are Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Tangible Gifts, and Physical Touch. We have found that each person has a primary and secondary language of appreciation. Our primary language communicates more deeply to us than the others. Although we will accept appreciation in all five languages, we will not feel truly encouraged unless the message is given through our primary language. When messages are sent repeatedly in ways outside of that language, the intent of the message misses the mark and loses the impact the sender had hoped for.
A healthy organization can’t develop without authentic appreciation — a core component and driving force for a vibrant workplace to grow and prosper. Why is this so important? Because authentic appreciation:
- affirms the value of each member of the organization, helping them function better and grow in their competencies;
- communicates directly at a personal level between team members, rather than the indirect impersonal messages typically sent in an unhealthy workplace;
- creates proactive energy for the recipient, for the sender, for others observing, and for the organization as a whole;
- serves as a “repellent” and protector against negative influences that can damage the members of the community;
- displays genuine affirmation—not faked displays or a cheap imitation, and not just trying to look like the real thing.
- gives team members the energy and stamina to overcome the obstacles encountered in everyday work life.
In the work I have done consulting around the country, I’ve observed some common obstacles to creating a culture of appreciation. These include lack of leadership from management, toxic workplaces, the challenge of unique settings and employee characteristics that create problems.
As you may already know only too well, not every organization jumps at the chance to personally, individually, express appreciation to their team. You may be part of one of those organizations. In my new book The Vibrant Workplace, you’ll learn to identify the most common obstacles to applying the 5 languages in the workplace and become equipped with proven strategies to be the “change agent” to help build a healthier workplace—where people feel truly valued.
More From Dr. Paul White
Dr. Paul White is an author, speaker and psychologist, who helps “make work relationships work.” He is the coauthor of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman and his book, The Vibrant Workplace, will release in April 2017. For more information, go to www.appreciationatwork.com.