Employee Recognition leads to higher motivation. Higher motivation leads to more productivity.
Every leader should understand the psychology of employee recognition to get the most out of their team.
The key thing for leaders to understand is about how dopamine works in our brains. The most important part of the dopamine experience is that it runs out fairly quickly, and when we receive it, we want more of it.
So as an employee, if I do a good job on a presentation, and then get recognized for that by someone I respect (like my direct manager), I’ll want that feeling again.
After receiving that recognition I’m much more likely to try and do a good job on the next presentation.
When people talk about dopamine, it’s often associated with pleasure, and the effect you get from drugs and alcohol.
But it turns out that dopamine is much more than pleasure.
Dopamine’s true effect might be motivation1.
In one study2, a team of scientists mapped the brains of “go-getters” and “slackers” and found that those who were more willing to work hard for rewards had higher dopamine levels.
Neuroscientist John Salamone explains it like this:
“Low levels of dopamine make people and other animals less likely to work for things, so it has more to do with motivation and cost/benefit analyses than pleasure itself.”
Speaking from personal experience, when you don’t receive recognition and you know you should have, you’re incredibly unmotivated.
You start to question whether your opinions and ideas really count and what value you truly bring to an organization.
This is obviously a scary thought to go through, because of course your opinions count, but it’s interesting to see how much of an effect praise (or lack of it) can have.
Recognition Often Matters More Than Money
A 2013 survey3 of 1,200 U.S employees from many different industries found that:
- 83% of respondents said recognition was more fulfilling than any reward or gift
- 88% found praise from managers very or extremely motivating
- 70% reported their most meaningful recognition “had no dollar value”
- 76% found peer praise very or extremely motivating
It’s the last point, about peer praise, that I want to focus on.
We often talk about how important it is for managers to be praising their employees, but a huge opportunity that’s being missed is having coworkers praise each other.
In a survey4 from the American Psychological Association (APA), they found that only 17% of employees say they receive recognition from their peers, versus 31% from their supervisors.
You can’t expect managers to catch every single thing that every employee does, it’s just not realistic.
A manager can’t be in all places at all times, so a simple solution is to create a culture of recognition.
Research from Deloitte shows that praise from your coworkers means more than praise from your managers, so it’s even more important to create a culture of recognition.
So then the question becomes, how do you go about creating a culture of recognition?
Empower Employees To Show Gratitude
Research on gratitude shows that this could easily be the answer to not only create a culture of recognition, but improve the wellbeing of everyone on the team.
The research on gratitude is crazy. Practicing gratitude makes us better workers and better people.
Gratitude can make your life happier and more satisfying. When we feel gratitude, we benefit from the pleasant memory of a positive event in our life. Also, when we express our gratitude to others, we strengthen our relationship with themMartin Seligman
Researchers at UC Davis5 found that “grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress.”
A paper published in 20096 in the Clinical Psychology Review finds that people who express gratitude are more extroverted, agreeable, open, conscientious, and less neurotic.
Practicing gratitude has been shown to make us:
- Sleep better
- More likeable
- More emotionally intelligent
- More optimistic
- Less self-centered
- Have more energy
- And so much more!
4 Ways You Can Practice Gratitude
Not only should you be practicing gratitude, but it’s important to encourage everyone on your team to practice gratitude as well.
You’ll be creating a culture where everyone appreciates each other, are closer with each other, and are all benefiting from the benefits mentioned above.
Here are 4 ways you can practice gratitude and build it into your life.
Keep A Gratitude Journal
Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the easiest and most popular ways to practice gratitude.
The purpose of this exercise is to think back on the past week or few days and write down things that you’re grateful for.
Many people say that you should do this every day, but I’ve found that doing it once or twice a week seems much more natural.
Keeping a gratitude journal has been shown to make us happier, healthier, and sleep better.
Go For A Gratitude Walk
Walking in general is great for your health and creativity, but the way this exercise works is while walking, appreciate the things around you.
Notice the colors of the trees and grass, the sounds of nature, the sun hitting you, etc.
As you keep walking, you’ll learn to appreciate life in a whole new light.
It’s been shown that this experience is heightened when you’re walking with someone else and can share those feelings.
One idea could be to go for a walking meeting and start or end the meeting with sharing what you’re noticing.
Meditate With Gratitude
The effects of meditation are so powerful that meditation alone is one of the best things you can do for your wellbeing.
The difference here is that instead of a traditional meditation, where you focus on you’re breathing, a gratitude meditation is when you visualize all the things in your life you’re grateful for.
Write A Letter Of Gratitude
This is arguably the most powerful gratitude exercise you can do, because it helps you build closer connections with people.
The way this exercise works, is that you write a letter to someone that you feel grateful to know.
The key with this exercise is to be extremely detailed with your letter. Write about how this person has improved your life and all the value their bring to your life.
Gratitude is contagious, and as you make someone else happy, you’ll be happy, and they’re much more likely to go out and make someone else happy.
How We Help Our Customers Spread Gratitude
One of the most amazing things about gratitude is its contagiousness.
When you spread good vibes to others, they’re more likely to spread good vibes themselves.
At Officevibe, we’re incredibly grateful to our customers, and when one of them does something amazing (reports a bug, sends us a nice note), we send them a handwritten thank you card.
When we send it to them, we include a few blank cards and encourage the person we’re sending it to to write their own thank you note to a few of their teammates.
As they continue to spread positive vibes throughout the office, everyone is happier, more productive, and closer with each other.
It’s all part of our mission to help companies create greater workplaces :)
How Do You Build Recognition Into Your Culture?
Let us know your thoughts below!
- http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130110094415.htm ↩
- http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2012/05/dopamine-impacts-your-willingness-to-work/ ↩
- http://www.badgeville.com/news/announcements/motivating-todays-workforce ↩
- http://www.apaexcellence.org/assets/general/employee-recognition-survey-results.pdf ↩
- http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/Labs/emmons/PWT/index.cfm?Section=4 ↩
- http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/pdfs/GratitudePDFs/2Wood-GratitudeWell-BeingReview.pdf ↩