Advancing

The Secret to Feeling Better at Work

feeling better at work

Clients frequently come to me saying that they feel unappreciated at work.

They feel unrecognized and invisible. Their bosses never says anything about their hard work and accomplishments.

Last week, I heard this doozie: “I’m ready to tell my boss: ’If you don’t appreciate me soon, I’ll just quit.’”

Ouch.

We need to let people know we value them. I’m not suggesting flattery. I am suggesting you take notice of people around you and them when they’re making a positive impact. Of course, that doesn’t prohibit you from telling employees that they need to make some improvements.

I believe that when more people notice and tell each other what’s most sensational about each other at work, we’ll all feel more confident, creative, and like we’re able to make our biggest contribution.

Don’t you really want your co-workers, your manager, and your clients to see the energy and care you put into your work? It might be the spiffy graphic you designed, the analytical report you compiled, the million lines of computer code you wrote, or anything else.

So, if you want that, what are the people around you hungry for? They, too, want to hear a comment from you that lets them know you’ve really taken notice.

It’s helpful to have others hold up a mirror to help us see where we shine. It’s hard to have to constantly do that for ourselves, especially in a world that loves to look for flaws. When we don’t look out for and call out each other’s talents and accomplishments, that leads to a mediocre working world.

Why We Don’t Show Appreciation

We’re not used to shouting out about the good in others because we’re bombarded by negativity. On reality TV shows like The Biggest Loser or The Bachelor, the characters thrive on finding fault with one another. TV news plays up the negative stories. Schools focus on how many problems a student gets wrong, rather than how many they got correct. We’re awash in the wrong, rather than the right.

Despite their titles, managers often don’t know the value of appreciation. If your manager grew up in a family that didn’t notice his or her talents and virtues (and didn’t get positive strokes), it’s unlikely that person readily gives you the encouragement you’re seeking. Fortunately, in a company culture that intentionally cultivates appreciation, people learn its importance and start sharing it.

We can’t expect a culture of appreciation to simply organically arise. You and me, we need to deliberately seed the shift to sharing appreciation. Why? Because our brains are naturally wired to glom on the negative, and gloss over the positive, unless we deliberately strive to do things differently. Otherwise, we focus on the flaws in someone’s presentation, rather than celebrate all that’s right about what they’ve so diligently crafted. We can shift that wiring, if we set the intention. What if we all paid more attention to what people at work are doing well — and enthusiastically celebrated what they’re doing well?

What you appreciate grows in value. When you point out what’s working, you tend to get more of it.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get appreciated for your greatest talents? And then find yourself enjoying even more work that taps into what fuels you? How uplifting would that be?

How to Show Appreciation

How can you appreciate others so they feel good and share more of their sensational gifts? Let’s look at the four levels of appreciation

  1. Compliment. A compliment is something you like or notice, and that item or behavior makes you feel good. Something like “I like the blue scarf you’re wearing.” Or “You did a nice job on the presentation.” It’s light and may be uplifting, but it’s not designed to help someone notice their own brilliance.
  2. Basic Appreciation. This is noticing the good in another and saying something encouraging. “I saw you make that big presentation to our new client! Good job!” In this comment, you still have room to help the recipient develop.
  3. “I See Your Impact” Appreciation. In this form of appreciation, you tell someone how they made a difference in the outcome of a project or situation. Something like, “I appreciate how the informative, catchy poster you created helped us to publicize the upcoming workshop, and we completely filled it this time!”
  4. “Tell Me How You Did It” Appreciation. This goes one step beyond the “I See Your Impact” style of appreciation, by really engaging further with the person you appreciate, and helping him or her articulate their unique form of genius. It might go something like this: ““I appreciate how the informative, catchy poster you created helped us to publicize the upcoming workshop, and we completely filled it this time! How did you generate the idea for that poster?”

Here’s a deep appreciation hack for you to use:

“I noticed you using your talent for ___ (name their sensational skill, talent, or ability), and the positive impact it had on ___ (this event/thing/product/issue that matters to us). How did you do that?”

Not Feeling Appreciated?

If you’re working with people who overlook the positive in you, ask for a daily dose. You might say something like “Hey, it makes me feel more included when you tell me what I’m doing well.” Or “When you give me specific feedback on where I’ve made a positive impact, that encourages me to do a better job.”

You can also practice noticing and naming when you see others being sensational. You’ll “prime the pump” by modeling behaviors you want to spread.

Go ahead. Let the appreciation flow.

About the Author

Since 2001, Dr. Susan Bernstein has helped existing and emerging leaders navigate through change, uncertainty, and conflict so they thrive. Through her executive coaching, her clients gain strategic perspective and psychological insights to elevate their leadership, build stronger relationships, and make a greater impact in the world. Before launching her coaching practice, Susan held demanding leadership roles at Franklin-Covey, Intel, and Accenture. She earned an MBA at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and a PhD in Somatic Psychology at the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute. You’ll find Susan’s thought leadership in Fast Company, The Huffington Post, Thrive Global, and Psychology Today. Connect with Susan at DrSusanBernstein.com.