There is a valuable, powerful and free (now there's a word we all like to hear these days) perk managers and employees alike can give away to one another that instantly improves a work environment.
To implement this perk only takes a few minutes of preparation and less than a minute to distribute—yet the return on the investment of your time and energy is excellent. So, what's the most powerful job perk?
Recently, one of the nightly entertainment shows was interviewing people on the street and asking them if they'd rather a compliment or a small amount of cash.
More than half said they wanted the compliment, reminding me of one of the popular discussions I have with executive management teams: the difference between appreciating and complimenting staff.
Appreciation Isn't a Compliment
Here's why: Many people don't realize that these are actually two different things. When you appreciate people, you tell them how you rely on them—what value they provide you. When you compliment people, you are telling them what you admire about them, a.k.a. what makes them better than others at something specific.
In short, appreciation says, "I need you" while complimenting says, "I respect that thing you do."
The difference is subtle, but the impact in the workplace is significant. In my opinion, when you give too much appreciation without compliments, it backfires. For example, employees who are constantly told how valuable they are to the company (over-needed) but not told specifically how their professional strengths are leveraged by working at the company (under-respected), eventually look for new, higher paying jobs because they feel they are being taken advantage of.
Yet, employees who are recognized for their strengths (needed) and then told how their strengths work well with the efforts of other team members (respected) feels valued and wants to stay in an environment where they are made to feel successful AND satisfied.
Studies show that top performers who leave a company after many years because they feel they can earn significantly more and/or do better elsewhere rarely do as well? Not only does their long-term employer suffer a huge talent loss, they usually end up disappointing the new company and find themselves struggling to integrate into the new corporate culture, ultimately being unable to deliver the results they promised AND looking for another new job within a year. In short, everyone loses.
I believe it's possible to keep star players satisfied long-term by making sure they are properly complimented; we must make employees feel good about their contributions to the firm, while simultaneously showing them how the current work environment enables them to be so successful (i.e. the strengths of their co-workers, their knowledge of company history, their comfort with their systems, policies and procedures, etc.).
Everyone Should Learn to Give Good Compliments
Managers who learn to give good compliments can do more than improve morale in their work environments, they can improve retention too. But, giving out compliments shouldn't just be management's job.
Employees can benefit professionally from distributing compliments as well. Nothing says, "I'm a team player and I understand how to work well within this company," than the use of compliments to point out the strengths of peers, management and organization.
Let's face it: positive statements in the form of compliments make you an ideal employee to keep around. Please understand, I'm not talking about brown-nosing or kissing-up. True compliments are sincere, honest and accurate.
Learning to give a good compliment is a must-do if you are an employee who wants to advance your career.
What Are the Steps to Giving a Really Powerful, Effective Compliment?
1. Identify people who could use a compliment at your company.
2. Think about their professional strengths and how they leverage them in your workplace.
3. Find an opportunity to speak to them face-to-face.
4. Share specifically what they do well and provide examples to support your compliment.
5. Conclude with why you admire their strengths and what they have taught you.
Now, after you've distributed your compliment, sit back and watch what happens. Depending on the person and your previous relationship with them, a wide range of initial reactions could play out.
Perhaps the person will dismiss your compliment, act annoyed or just say nothing. Maybe they'll break into a big laugh or smile. You might even see them shed a tear or two. But regardless of the reaction you get at that moment, it's the long-term effect that is more important. I guarantee you will see a change both in the attitude of the person you complimented and in the way that they work with you.
Giving compliments at work is like giving someone a surprise party on their birthday. It is an unexpected gesture that provides great joy. And, when you make someone happy, you put them in a better frame of mind—which means they're likely to be more receptive and open to new challenges, not to mention better able to contribute and help others as well.
Based on this information, doesn't it make sense that we should consider developing our complimenting skills? It could be the single most powerful perk we can implement to keep our work environments and careers both positive and productive.
And oh yes, let me remind you again, it's free! I challenge everyone who reads this to start giving out this free perk today, especially if you'd like to receive a compliment. Why? Because everyone knows: you got to give to receive!
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