Our discussions surfaced notable gaps between managers’ and employees’ perceptions

First, there was a stark difference between how much managers appreciated employees and how appreciated employees felt. We speculate that the illusion of transparency, or people’s tendency to overestimate how visible their emotions are to others, explains this: Managers incorrectly assumed employees knew how they felt about them.

Second, many managers reported that communicating appreciation seemed really complicated. Some had trouble balancing it with developmental feedback and feared sending mixed messages to employees. Some were concerned that their efforts to offer appreciation to all employees would be routinized and seen as impersonal and meaningless. Employees, on the other hand, did not see this as a complex task and quickly and clearly articulated the precise ways managers could effectively express appreciation. Here’s what they told us managers needed to do:

1. Touch base early and often. While regularly taking time to say hello to employees and check in with them might seem like an unnecessary drain on your productivity, these interactions are actually valuable points of connection for your employees (and for you). They prevent your staff from feeling invisible. One of the employees in our focus groups told us that simply hearing “Good morning” or “How are you?” from his department manager would have been as meaningful as formal recognition. If you create routines that allow your employees to share stories with you about what they’re doing or working on, you can make them feel “known” by you – and stay in the loop on what’s happening within your organization.

In our discussions they reported time and again that receiving feedback – positive and developmental – was one of the key things that made them feel valued

2. Employees want to know both what they’re doing well and where they can improve. As one employee explained, receiving praise from her manager was meaningful, but because she never got improvement-oriented suggestions, she questioned how valid the positive feedback was. Meanwhile, some employees who received only critical feedback seemed to give up, because they felt they could never do anything right.

The trick is to avoid giving both types of feedback at once. When managers try the common sandwich technique, stuffing negative feedback between two layers of positive feedback, employees just get confused. In our experience, the people who needed the developmental feedback most tended to only hear the positive things their manager said, and the people who performed well left remembering more of the negative comments. So be sure to clearly ental feedback.

Give balanced feedback

3. Address growth opportunities. Employees want to know what the future holds for their careers. When managers take time to explicitly discuss growth potential or provide opportunities and “stretch” assignments, employees interpret it as evidence that they’re valued. Conversely, when managers neglect to address people’s development, employees Chandler escort take it as a sign that they are not. One employee told us, “My manager is constantly recognizing my work, and I know that she sees that I go over and above. The issue is that she doesn’t fight to get me new and greater opportunities.”

4. Offer flexibility. Whether managers gave people the option to work remotely or even simply suggested someone come in late the day after working extra hours, employees were quick to interpret it as an important signal of trust and appreciation. One employee told us that he felt the flexible work schedule his manager offered him was “a huge recognition.”

5. Make it a habit. Simply taking a few minutes to tell your employee specifically what you value about their contributions can have a tremendous impact. Try to build it into your regular routines, perhaps by spending the first 15 minutes of your week writing a personal thank-you note or starting your team meetings with shout-outs briefly acknowledging accomplishments of individual team members. The range of options are almost limitless. Some managers we spoke to gave food and gift cards as tangible expressions of their appreciation; others made it a point to visit with each of their reports daily. The idea isn’t to create an automatic system for thanking employees, however; it’s more about giving yourself permission to express your appreciation in a way that feels natural to you.

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