Type to search


Jon Kidwell poses the question, what if we’re getting employee appreciation wrong, and shares what to do about it.

When is the last time you felt truly appreciated? Every article from the search “the best ways to appreciate employees” lists countless ways to show appreciation. The problem is none of them actually talk about showing appreciation. They are about giving rewards, parties and recognition.

The really dangerous ones are incentives. Which has nothing to do with appreciation and everything to do with getting something in return. So, what is appreciation and where can we start to genuinely show appreciation for our team members?

Appreciation is not an activity, it’s a positive emotion or orientation toward someone or something. With appreciation, we often see gratitude expressed because of the value it holds for us and the joy that comes from experiencing it. Art, food, landmarks, and influential people we appreciate we often set aside, protect, and study. High appreciation for a person or thing often brings us to a deeper understanding resulting in giving honor and respect to what we appreciate.

Where to Start for Genuine Appreciation

Express Gratitude

Brene Brown found that practicing gratitude brings joy, and we appreciate what gives us joy. It’s not joy that makes us grateful, it’s gratitude that makes us joyful. Be specific when expressing gratitude. Gratitude grounded in specifics show that you truly see the person and what they are doing. Personal, relevant and heartfelt praise have the power to restore relationships and carry people through tough times. 

Respect the Worker, Respect the Work

How might appreciation be different if our response to walking on a pool deck or in a child care room was to see a person doing a necessary and valuable role? Organizations, like our bodies, have many parts and functions. We need them all. None are better or worse than others, just different. Where others may give respect because of a title or take for granted a “low-level job” we can show how much we value the person and the job by respecting the qualities they bring and the work they do.  

Honor Them and What Matters to Them 

For a judge, honored guest or WWII veteran, our response is the same. When an honored person speaks, we listen. The more we listen the more we learn. We learn how life is hard. What matters to them. What they need to perform at their best. Honoring someone with the time it takes to hear their story is the most valuable gift we can give. Because we can’t make more time. And, the return on that investment will give you all you need to learn and serve in a way that honors them.

Learn More: Your Next Crisis – The Neglected Community

If respect, honor and gratitude are not felt, acts of appreciation will always feel manipulative. Respect the people and their work, honor them with your time and in your heart, and express gratitude as often as possible. When you do, you can’t help but act in ways to show your appreciation. And you can be confident the ways you show appreciation will be sincere because you saw, heard, and now truly value the people and what they will appreciate most from you.

Jon Kidwell

Jon Kidwell coaches leaders in mission-driven organizations. He helps leaders develop the leadership and business skills they need to succeed with a mission-driven, people-centered approach to getting results and growing impact. For over 15 years Jon worked in nonprofits, 11 with the YMCA, most recently as vice president of innovation and operations for the YMCA of Greater Houston. Jon is the founder and president of The Kidwell Team and teaches Organizational Leadership at Concordia University Irvine. Connect with Jon by email at jon@jonkidwell.com, on LinkedIn, or visit his website jonkidwell.com.

  • 1

You Might also Like

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *