Why aren’t we feeling valued at work?
The majority of British workers feel under thanked and under appreciated in the workplace, leaving many demotivated and somewhat uninspired, and highlighting a disconnect between what bosses believe they are doing and what employees perceive.
Research from Monster released earlier in the year showed that one of the key findings, and a wake up call for businesses, was the monetary value that workers place on being under appreciated - with employees wanting, on average, to be paid an extra £134 a month (£1,608 a year) to compensate for the lack of appreciation and never being thanked at work.
Further analysis showed a range of compensation expectations with 11% suggesting a figure of £500 or more extra a month. There was some age variation too, with older workers twice as likely as younger ones to expect no compensation - maybe through years of conditioning or reduced expectations. Salary levels had little influence on the range though with people earning less than £20,000 and over £60,000 registering similar views on the monetary values of being under appreciated.
Corinne Sweet, organisational behaviour psychologist, had said “As Brits we can sometimes feel embarrassed about saying ‘well done’, or giving ‘positive feedback’, so it’s not surprising that 58 per cent of employees say people don’t say thank you enough at work. This is a clear call for bosses to be more engaged with their employees and let them know when they’ve done a good job.”
There's no denying that positive reinforcement shapes behaviours at work and we respond well to both encouragement and the belief that we are doing a good job. In the research 54% said that lack of thanks made them feel under appreciated whilst 41% also felt it demotivating, making them less likely to give 100% effort. As respondents were able to select more than one description it was interesting to see that 12% also said it made them feel sad, and for another 12% it led to feelings of anger. Clearly there is a huge impact on staff loyalty and retention.
Employers seem to be aware of this - 48% acknowledged that a lack of appreciation has some negative impact whilst a further 27% accepted that it could have a significant negative impact.
So what are some of the reasons why we may not be getting the appreciation we want in the workplace?
Its Seen as a Sign of Weakness
There definitely could be a feeling that staff need to be hungry, and thankful for their jobs, and that to keep giving positive reinforcement may encourage them to ease off or take their position for granted. Whilst 75% of employers in the survey recognised some negative impact from lack of appreciation, it follows that 1 in 4 didn't. Only 4% went as far as saying they thought lack of recognition would make employees work even harder to impress, but it could be that there is a feeling that over appreciative bosses are perceived as being a bit 'soft' on their staff or too easy to please.
Erosion of Social Skills
We certainly seem to have less face to face meetings in the workplace. The advent of email and technologies that facilitate remote working may have encouraged some managers to avoid face to face contact, preferring to communicate electronically. Certainly a thank you delivered in person will mean a lot more to a worker than one in a reply email. The investment of time and impact of the personal touch in showing appreciation can be quite powerful.
Managers Need to be Trained to Give Feedback
Sometimes it's hard to deliver positive reinforcement. The ability to give direct feedback and encouragement in a meaningful way is a skill that many leaders struggle with, not least as we Brits can be a bit shy and reticent, and often try to avoid both confrontation and praise. Perhaps the ability to say things that are meaningful to people, and make them feel appreciated and valued, is a skill that we should look for when selecting managers, or definitely one to cover in leadership development.
In our survey we found that 93% of employers agreed that manners were a vital part of the working environment that they try to create, however only 25% of employees felt their bosses were appreciative of what they did, with another 22% finding their boss ungrateful and lacking in manners. It would appear that many think they have shown appreciation but their workers don't agree, indicating a level of miscommunication, or at least lack of clarity and purpose in the appreciation given.
The positives to be gained from treating your people well, making them feel valued and important, and giving them attention and praise can never be underestimated. The research also highlighted the potential financial cost of taking staff for granted, whilst there are many other less tangible impacts around demotivation, dis-engagement and low levels of loyalty and retention.
Whether your managers think they are already showing appreciation, or don't know how to show it effectively, it seems that being able to value employees and treat them with respect is a key management skill that could well be a differentiator for many businesses in the future.
Mervyn Dinnen is an award winning blogger and a content & social engagement strategist. He specialises in the Recruitment and HR sectors and is a regular speaker and panellist at industry conferences.
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