The answer is, absolutely nothing, unless you are doing it for the right reasons. Organizations start to feel a certain pressure when the workload is high and the resources are slim. So how do they keep the morale high so employees stay motivated to move the mission forward? Some sort of recognition, surely that will do the trick. But what does this recognition look like and why are you really doing it? These are key questions leaders should ask themselves when faced with this dilemma.
Recognition can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. In my previous blog, Better together, I stressed the importance of bringing your employees together to discuss important issues. Burnout is no exception. Leaders need to genuinely listen to show employees they understand and really care. Tossing a dozen donuts to a team that is being held together with scotch tape and toothpicks due to stress doesn’t cut it; you need to uncover and address the underlying issue whenever possible.
Advocacy and understanding are strong signals of appreciation, and they come at no additional expense to the organization. Many of us are facing budget cuts, mergers, and hiring freezes along with the pervasive message that we need to keep doing more with less. How do I foster that message with my team to get the work done under these constraints? I don’t. It isn’t possible. As soon as I realized that personally, I shared it with my team and we talked about how all of us were feeling that way. One of my team members likened it to having all these balls in the air and was letting the plastic ones fall and bounce while keeping the glass ones suspended. We agreed we cannot do it all, I don’t expect them to, and I make sure higher level leadership knows what plastic balls we are dropping.
Never use appreciation and recognition as an apology for bad behavior. Dropping off a bottle of wine at someone’s office, or giving them a gift card because you disrespected them is an empty gesture, and doesn’t indicate that you learned anything. What it does say quite clearly, is you don’t respect them enough to really listen to them. This is far worse than the original infraction.
Motivations for giving recognition and appreciation should be driven by the recipient, not the giver. Seek to understand and meet your team where they are to show genuine care and concern for their well-being. We spend so much time with our colleagues in our workplaces that this should be a given. The sentiment that all ships rise together should be a mantra in your organizations. Just make sure your boats are in good working order to make the journey.
When I was a new leader I had several members of my team read the 5 Appreciation Languages of the Workplace so I could figure out how they like to be recognized. They have it on Amazon at the link below.
Now go appreciate yourself with a glass of wine. You have earned it!