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The Importance of Feeling Appreciated in the Workplace

All too often, employees don't get much positive feedback.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who was feeling very upset about work. Why? In essence, he thought his manager didn't like him. He rarely heard much from his manager, and when he did it was mostly to correct him on some aspect of his work or to disagree with him on something. Hardly ever a positive word.

Source: Kristin Hardwick / Stocksnap
Appreciation is a key element of a positive experience of work.
Source: Kristin Hardwick / Stocksnap

Not surprisingly, given my friend's understandably anxious view of these workplace dynamics, he was dreading his annual performance evaluation. He was worried his boss might even tell him that he wasn't needed anymore. Accordingly, he began to look around for another job—not because he really wanted to, as he liked the kind of work he was doing, just not the management relationship.

Evaluation day came, and to his great surprise, rather than being harshly critical, his manager told him, without a lot of fanfare, that he was doing a fine job and gave him a substantial raise. My friend was shocked, although in a happy way.

Misreading the Situation

How could this happen? How could my friend have so thoroughly misread the situation? How could he have assumed he was in serious trouble at work when in reality he was a highly valued employee?

The sad truth is, this kind of employee-management misunderstanding is by no means unusual. People want to feel appreciated for the work they do, yet often this simple message is not conveyed by management. Maybe their boss is too busy. Maybe she's just not a good communicator. Maybe he thinks his role is to be in control and show little emotion. Or any number of other emotional or managerial obstacles that get in the way of clear genuine communication.

Ample management research confirms this disconnect. One recent survey showed that nearly half of employees have considered leaving a job "due to lack of recognition." Another similar study had 46 percent of employees leaving a job "because they felt unappreciated." The point is: My friend has plenty of company.

Reasonable to Expect

The good news is, in this case, the damage was repaired before it was too late—before my friend was out the door and his company left with the expensive and time-consuming process of hiring a new employee. And my friend left without the scars of a failed relationship, albeit of the workplace kind. So this story has a happy ending, at least for now.

But as the research noted above also demonstrates, workplace problems related to recognition and appreciation are as common as the office air we breathe.

This aligns firmly with my own personal experience; during my decades in corporate management, I saw appreciation (or lack thereof) issues all the time. When a job isn't done well, nobody deserves anything, of course. But when a job is well done, if you're an employee, it's entirely natural (and reasonable) to expect at least a bit of appreciation. And if you're a manager, it's a good idea to show some. It's that simple.

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