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Why Appreciation from Management Matters

Appreciation is a critical element in retaining employees.

I was recently discussing the case of a longtime employee I knew well, who, after several decades of highly successful performance with a company, was starting to look for another job.

Source: Liza Summer / Pexels
Feeling unappreciated makes an employee much more likely to look for work elsewhere.
Source: Liza Summer / Pexels

I was (at first) frankly shocked by this information. She was a highly productive employee of unquestioned integrity and an exceptional work ethic. If I were starting a company and could draft employees like a pro sports team, she might well be my number one pick.

Then I learned more about the situation and I became less surprised.

After literally decades of outstanding, loyal performance for her organization, one thing was missing. One crucial thing.

She didn't feel appreciated.

Longevity Connection

As I was thinking over my friend's circumstance, I also came across some research that provided sound additional perspectives on how appreciation fits into the broader management framework.

The study defined appreciation as the “application of wisdom, sound judgment, and keen insight in recognizing the worth of someone.”

"Many employees do not feel appreciated," the research (correctly) observed. "Peers and leaders alike do not give recognition often enough. Recognition, a critical action that causes the feeling of appreciation, is often deprioritized."

Significantly, the research noted that appreciation is positively related to longevity within an organization. "Fifty-three percent of employees said they would stay at their jobs longer if their employers showed them more appreciation."

That's a clear indicator of the workplace power of this emotion.

Formal Programs Common

These findings made perfect sense to me. As a longtime manager and observer of corporate management, I've seen up close the fundamental reality that many managers are not comfortable expressing appreciation, or not adept at it. It often goes unspoken.

The result? Chronically unappreciated employees will, as the saying goes, vote with their feet.

To help rectify this problem, companies frequently establish things like "Employee of the Month" programs.

Programs like this aren't bad, they may be helpful, but by no means should they be the end of the management road. It's more like the beginning. Let's say a coffee shop with 10 employees has an "Employee of the Month" program. They then give an award to one person each month and assume this formal recognition will take care of their "appreciation" needs.

Such a program may be a start, but it's just a small piece of a larger management puzzle.

Personal and Genuine

Even more meaningful than official company programs are occasional heartfelt words of appreciation from manager to employee.

This kind of appreciation is organic; it flows from person to person and is offered genuinely and regularly.

It means a lot.

After decades in management, I believe that feeling appreciated for the job is a basic human need when employees view their work experience.

Returning to my story from the outset, I strongly suspect that if my friend had received more genuine personal appreciation over the years, she wouldn't be in her uncertain situation.


Gratitude in Organizations: A Contribution for Healthy Organizational Contexts. Frontiers in Psychology. 2017

O.C. Tanner. (2019). Employee Appreciation Perspective.

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