Is it time for bosses everywhere to start spreading the love among their employees?

Van Morrison

Gina London

“Have I told you lately that I love you?”

The opening line from the Van Morrison classic wafted into my ears while I was on the treadmill last week.

The song wasn’t a part of the up-tempo collection I had selected to accompany me that morning, but Spotify obviously thought it was something I needed to hear.

Maybe the app was right, because long after I skipped the track in favour of gym-friendly beats, the poignant words lingered.

Van Morrison poses an important question that each of us should consider. In all of our relationships. In every facet of our lives.

But since this column is in the Business Section, I better set my focus on the workplace. And I had also better narrow my focus, before you feel emboldened to announce your love to a co-worker.

What I’m talking about is the importance of communication. You won’t be surprised at that, after all, this column is called ‘The Communicator’. It’s what I bang on about.

But there’s some new research published in the latest Harvard Business Review which offers an opportunity to renew your communication vows.

Philosopher and poet David Whyte writes that relationships largely rise and fall from the impact of our conversations. But there’s a distinction here. It’s not only what we say, but also what we don’t say. Both matter.

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, authors of the Harvard Business Review report, state that despite mountains of data which show employee recognition improves “every measure of morale, productivity, performance, customer satisfaction, and employee retention”, many managers still fail to provide it regularly – if at all.

For instance, one survey they conducted at a US-based healthcare company saw nearly 30pc of the employees report they had not received any recognition whatsoever throughout the entire calendar year.

Do you recognise others?

Does this sound familiar to you? Do you work in a radio silence zone? If you are an employee, how often are you recognised by a manager or supervisor? On the other hand, if you are in a leadership role, do you make a point of pointing out the accomplishments of your team members?

It’s critical that you do so. Employees who are recognised, according to the research, report levels of engagement over 40pc higher than their unrecognised counterparts.

But one of the problems, the researchers claim, is a general misunderstanding of what it means to be recognised.

Do you understand what recognition is? 

To recognise another person’s effort or achievement, it is not necessary to hire a brass band, order cake or toss confetti.

The researchers say it is this misconception that recognition requires fanfare which has resulted in managers, as well as some employees, resisting the idea of giving or receiving it.

Once it’s understood that ‘recognition’ can be synonymous with the easier to embrace notion of ‘appreciation’, the researchers found both managers and employees became much more enthusiastic about the concept.

Do you know how to give effective recognition? 

After setting out their new research findings for why recognition is needed, yet possibly misunderstood, the authors of the HBR article provide a few tips to help you improve your appreciation skills.

They divide their tips into two main categories: What to appreciate, and how to deliver your appreciation.

I’ll share some of their recommendations to make sure you’re appreciating a co-worker, colleague or team member in the most effective way.

First, be specific. Not general. If someone did a good job, don’t just say: ‘You did a good job.’

Detail the precise action or event or intervention you experienced, and the direct and positive impact you believe it had on the team, the project, the department or even the entire organisation.

In short, aim to link a particular action to a particular outcome.

Next, let’s consider the variety of ways in which you can deliver your message of appreciation.

Yes, there’s the hoop-di-doo method. Splash the employee’s name across the next internal newsletter or produce a video in their honour. Present them with a plaque at the next all-hands meeting.

But perhaps remembering that many people feel embarrassed when singled out under the spotlight, you can take a more subtle, and possibly more sincere approach.

Hold a personal one-on-one meeting and express yourself in a meaningful and caring manner. Send an email with specific details, or better yet, hand-write a note or mail an actual letter.

As the article authors remind us, cards continue to be a very effective form of communication.

Another thing to bear in mind is to act quickly. If you are considering complimenting someone’s work, do it. Don’t wait. The authors stress that the sooner you give the recognition, the higher the perceived value.

“Increasing the frequency of recognition,” the researchers encourage, “will give you more chance to practice and improve this skill, while [notably] also making it more comfortable for the receiver who gets more used to hearing your appreciation.”

As the researchers conclude, it is important to tell your team members what they need to hear. Not only what you want to say.

So, set a goal to say you love, ahem... appreciate your employees more.

Write to Gina c/o

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