By Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed.
In the workplace, being thankful for something and verbalizing that thankfulness are two very different things. Oftentimes people are thankful, but they don’t express that gratitude in words. If that’s you, allow me to suggest expressing your appreciation out loud, because a little positivity goes a long way these days.
It was Mark Twain who allegedly said, “I can last two months on a good compliment,” and many people would agree. The key is that the compliment must be sincere. Just saying, “Good job” to someone rarely does it. A specific action observed and acknowledged form the heart of a good compliment, such as, “I like how you remained so calm when that situation yesterday went sideways.”
The cool thing is that behaviorism works. It’s just human nature. When someone feels valued for doing something, they connect that positive feeling with the behavior. Think of it this way: behavior that gets rewarded or recognized in a positive way usually gets repeated.
It’s a good idea to practice this as a way of life, but workplace programs can also be implemented to foster the giving of compliments. One hospital laboratory in my town instituted a “Caught You at Your Best” program. In this program, any employee can submit a compliment about another employee. The process is simple:
- Submissions must have a specific description of a praiseworthy action or attitude
- Recipients are acknowledged both verbally and in writing by a member of the “Caught You at Your Best” team soon after the praiseworthy event
- All employees are eligible to receive recognition
- All employees are eligible to give recognition
The team of volunteers take the submissions, write up brief, one-sentence descriptions, and then deliver the note along with a verbal, one-on-one “thank you” during the workday.
One such acknowledgement read, “Thank you for staying after your normal shift to help out in Chemistry when they were shorthanded but overloaded with work.” As one lab employee said, “It’s nice when your manager notices you did something, but when co-workers take time to write about their observations, it really fosters esprit-de-corps.”
Each recipient of a compliment gets a candy bar placed in his or her “inbox.” Even with 180 lab employees, the program at this hospital is inexpensive to operate – about $30 per month to cover the cost of candy bars.
When employees acknowledge and celebrate the above average performance and attitudes of their co-workers, it becomes part of the culture. What’s the benefit? People get in the habit of seeing the value of each other’s contributions, and that habit serves as a glue to strengthen even the most burdened work team.
Too many organizations say their employees are their greatest asset, but don’t support that statement with action. My view is that employees don’t need to wait for management or leadership to care for their greatest assets. Employees can say, “thank you” directly to their co-workers. Just remember to keep it specific and genuine. It’s like what Mark Twain said – people can live two months on a good compliment.
Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed. is a best-selling author and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. For more than 30 years he’s been working with teams and individuals (1:1 coaching) to help them achieve excellence. He was also teaching Emotional Intelligence since before it was a thing. Reach him through his website at MyWorkplaceExcellence.com or call his office at 208-375-7606.