Most employee recognition programs place a lot, if not all, of the responsibility for recognizing good work of their team members squarely on the shoulders of managers or supervisions. This is unfortunate and, actually, creates unwanted negative effects.
Clearly, calling attention to work done well by employees is a good habit to practice. When staff feel valued for the contributions they make, a sense of loyalty and emotional engagement to the mission of the organization develops.
But focusing solely on managers and supervisors to support and communicate appreciation to their staff often is an unrealistic goal that creates problems when it isn't attained:
- the manager feels overly burdened trying to show appreciation
- members of the team become frustrated when they don’t feel they receive enough recognition for the work they do
- the supervisor can become discouraged with their inability to encourage all team members consistently
- an overall negativity and disappointment can develop in spite of the attempts to be positive and encouraging
Managers should communicate appreciation but…
Just to clarify, we're not proposing that managers give up their attempts to show recognition and communicate appreciation to their team members. Good results follow that plan.
But it's becoming increasingly clear that employees need to feel valued by both their supervisors and their colleagues. In fact, when employees and supervisors consistently (and effectively) communicate appreciation to their colleagues, the positive results occur more quickly, are more dramatic in their intensity and the “staying power” of their effect is longer lasting.
Train team members to encourage and support one another
We began to learn the importance of peer appreciation when one of our training participants said, “It's fine for my supervisor to learn how to show appreciation to me. I need and want that. But I also want to know how to encourage Shayla [a colleague], when she's having a rough day.”
This and other similar feedback led us to revise our training to include showing employees how to communicate authentic appreciation to their colleagues. The result? Positive communication and improved morale to a level we never imagined!
When team members feel valued not only by their supervisor but also by their colleagues -- and when they accept responsibility to encourage and recognize the good work others are doing -- a positive “snowball effect” occurs that can be virtually impossible to stop. Appreciation from a co-worker can be as simple as a, “Thanks for getting that report to me quickly, Ann. That's really going to make it easier for me to pull together my presentation without having to rush at the last minute.”
It's important to emphasize, however, that shifting full responsibility to peers from managers is not a good idea. Managers need to lead by example, modeling acts of encouragement to their team, as well as provide the training and resources for co-workers to learn how to effectively communicate genuine appreciation to one another. (Otherwise, the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do approach will lead to increased cynicism and resentment toward the manager.)
Authentic appreciation communicated both from leaders and among co-workers leads to a positive, supportive work environment that others will envy.