3 Guidelines for Employee Appreciation All Year Long

With Thanksgiving on the immediate horizon, it’s a simple matter to express employee appreciation and gratitude. However, thankfulness in the workplace is the gift that keeps giving as long as you keep giving it. Expressing appreciation is not only fantastic for employee engagement, motivation and retention, it also improves a range of mental health and overall well-being outcomes for the expresser.


Since adults spend a great deal of their waking hours at the workplace, it’s imperative to overall well-being that employees feel happy while at work. Appreciation is one of the most effective ways to facilitate these positive emotions as humans have a natural desire for validation. But, why is this?

Psychology Behind Employee Appreciation

According to Psychology Today, appreciation and gratitude directly impact the hypothalamus, which controls basic bodily functions like eating and sleeping, and dopamine, the “reward neurotransmitter.”

“Gratitude can have such a powerful impact on your life because it engages your brain in a virtuous cycle,” study author Alex Korb writes.

Consequently, when you practice employee appreciation, it creates a “pay it forward” workplace mentality that pays off to make your organization more successful.

Adam Grant’s research on gratitude found that a simple visit from a manager in a fundraising call center to explain the value of the callers’ work and thanking them for it resulted in a 50 percent increase in the number of calls made. Grant concluded that the boost was not a reflection of an increase in feelings of self-efficacy but a sense the company socially valued the callers.

The benefits of employee appreciation go far beyond relationship building between leaders and employees but also employees and the entire organization. More than 80 percent of employees say that employee appreciation motivates them to work harder. Consequently, when gratitude is an ongoing organizational practice, productivity and engagement continues to increase and becomes cyclical throughout the organization.

Here are some basic guidelines to incorporating employee appreciation into your company culture.

3 Guidelines to Employee Appreciation

1. Be Sincere

When expressing gratitude and employee appreciation, make sure it’s meaningful and sincere. Empty words negate the entire purpose of showing gratitude. When you truly feel grateful and show it, it signals that you respect the recipient, allowing them to lower their guard and develop trust.

2. Be Specific

This is related to sincerity. However, even genuine feedback can be vague. Make sure you are complimenting specific actions and behaviors rather than ambiguous personality traits. Studies show that praise for high ability leaves recipients vulnerable to self-doubt, because we have little control over our natural ability to handle situations. However, emphasizing actions, which are controllable, over abilities helps develop sustainable confidence, making employees more competent.

3. Be Humble

When expressing employee appreciation, make sure to let your team know how they have helped you grow as a leader and what you have learned from them. This empowers employee contributions, adding to the cycle of workplace gratitude and positivity.

Thanksgiving comes at an opportune time as we are heading into the holiday season and approaching the end of the year when we review the past year and set goals for the next. Consequently, it is the perfect time to start making gratitude a daily practice rather than a day on the calendar.

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