Appreciation matters


When you’ve got a large workload, it’s easy for things like employee appreciation to go out the window.

However, there is a lot of research confirming that employees who feel valued by their managers provide more value to the organisation, so it’s worth taking the time to show them you appreciate them. But how exactly does this make your staff perform better, and how can managers do this in a way that is meaningful?


The why

It might seem unprofessional to express gratitude for your employees, but research is overwhelmingly finding that this personal touch can pay dividends. Not only does appreciation reduce employee turnover – one US survey revealed two out of three employees would quit if they didn’t feel appreciated – it can boost job satisfaction. In fact, an Australian study of more than 1000 employees found that ‘supportive and appreciative’ work cultures were correlated highly with productivity. The report notes: “Productive workers feel valued and that their contributions are meaningful. They respect and are respected by their leaders.”

It might sound hard to believe, but the simple act of saying ‘thank you’ to your staff can make them more motivated. In a US study, a university fund-raising team was divided into two groups. One group operated as normal while the other received a pep talk from a senior manager, who told them how grateful she was for their efforts. Those in the second group made more fund-raising phone calls – a substantial 50 per cent more, in fact – than the first group.

Indeed, gratitude is much more effective as a motivator than fear. In a US survey, four out of five workers said they were motivated to work harder when a manager showed appreciation for their work, compared to those motivated by a demanding boss (only 38 per cent) or by the fear of losing their job (37 per cent).

The take-away message is that making sure your people feel like they matter will improve the culture of the organisation.


The how

Here are a few ways to build appreciation and praise your staff:

  • When giving compliments to your employees, make sure you are truthful and take the time to deliver the compliment thoughtfully. When praise is rushed – such as, being shouted across the office as a manager ducks into a meeting – it won’t feel meaningful. Equally, if you say something you don’t really mean, employees will probably see right through you.
  • Do not give compliments or put on a show of appreciation to offset the guilt you might feel for putting staff under the pump or asking for a last-minute task, such as something that required them to work late. Instead, if you have asked your staff to go above and beyond the call of duty, acknowledge their sacrifice in a sincere way, and thank them for persevering in the face of challenges.
  • When people feel like their contribution is valued they are likely to feel more engaged in the workplace. Taking a real interest in the work they’ve done will build appreciation. One way you can do this is by asking them to tell you the back story of how they put together a project or landed a deal.
  • Make sure all members of your team understand how their work adds value to how the organisation operates and thrives. Take the time to explain to them how their daily duties contribute to the organisation’s performance, which helps build employee engagement.


The trick?

The key is consistency – which means appreciating your employees must go beyond an annual ‘employee of the year’ program. A better approach is adding a gratitude program to weekly staff meetings or expressing appreciation in internal communications.

Glassdoor. Employers to retain half of their employees longer if bosses showed more appreciation; Glassdoor survey. [Online] 2013 [Accessed April 2019] Available from:

Harvard Business Review. What not to do when you’re trying to motivate your team [Online] 2018 [Accessed April 2019] Available from:

Harvard Medical School. Giving thanks can make you happier [Online; accessed April 2019] Available from:

Heads up. The Mentally Healthy Work Place Alliance. Tips for managers to create a mentally healthy workplace for all employees [Online; accessed April 2019] Available from:

McMillan L. A Future That Works. 2016 Snapshot of the Australian Workforce [Online; accessed April 2019] Pg 20-21; Available from:

Robert Half. Thanks but no thanks: survey reveals strangest forms of workplace recognition; research also finds two in three employees would leave their job if they didn’t feel appreciated [Online] 2017 [Accessed April 2019] Available from:

University of California, Berkeley. Greater Good Science Center. How gratitude can transform your workplace [Online] 2017 [Accessed April 2019] Available from: