Kindness is Free

By: Briana Peterson, SHRM-SCP 

Tomorrow is Employee Appreciation Day, and I know many of us truly appreciate our fellow employees, but do they know it? Here’s a statistic I picked up from Inc. Magazine recently: according to a 2023 survey by Workhuman, a global employee recognition and human capital management firm, almost half (46.4%) of all employees only feel “somewhat valued” at work. In other words, there’s still work to be done to improve communication, recognition and appreciation efforts.  

One word that comes to mind when I think about employee appreciation is kindness. Our ability to radiate kindness towards others will positively impact how much an employee feels valued at their company. Think about it, we’ve all been through a lot over the past few years. A pandemic has significantly reshaped the ways in which we interact with one another. We have realized or remembered the importance of kindness towards each other. Kindness is a characteristic and attribute of emotional intelligence, which has now been discussed and deployed across many organizations. 

So you might ask, what does kindness look like? 

  1. Listen. And I mean, actually listen. That means being able to hear what someone is saying and then taking that action a step further to thoughtfully respond. 
  2. Connect. The ability to understand and connect comes at no cost and if done intentionally and sincerely over, and over, and over again, can positively impact and build upon the relationship. At the heart of it, someone will genuinely feel heard and cared about – kindness! 

The most successful companies encourage employees to be helpful, encouraging, and appreciative of one another. After all, your coworkers are the ones in the trenches with you. If they value what you do, that carries a lot of weight. But leaders and managers can’t just hope that people will show appreciation for each other. They have to talk about the value of it in team meetings. They have to make the effort to notice when an employee is particularly helpful or encouraging of other team members. They have to recognize the behavior. 

They also need to model it. Showing appreciation and encouragement comes naturally to some people, but not so much to others. In some ways, it needs to be taught. So, in addition to talking about the value of peer-to-peer appreciation, they need to show appreciation in specific, constructive ways and to help employees understand what kinds of encouragement and appreciation make the most difference. Just saying “Good work” doesn’t really impart a lot of information. It’s much more impactful when you can say something like: 

  • Thanks for your hard work in getting the reports done on time. I know we were crunched and you made a big difference in our meeting the deadline.
  • That was a great suggestion you made at the meeting today.
  • Thanks for helping the new employee learn her way around.
  • I appreciate how you always know when everyone’s birthday is and make a point of it.

And in many companies, employers and managers have put systems in place to recognize people. One of my bosses favorites is “You rock!” She also sends cards with a dog playing a guitar and the saying “You rock!” as thank you notes.  Leaders can  make note of employee contributions in meetings, remembering there are many  ways that employees can recognize each other beyond verbal affirmation. Many employee portals and HRIS software products provide internal communication and recognition tools that are easy to use and can make a difference. I, for one, always enjoy receiving a smiley face emoji at the end of a sentence in an email. 

Managers and leaders aren’t always there to see how one employee always looks for extra ways to help the team or read the emails where one employee tells another “You’ve got this,” or stays late to proofread a report the night before it goes out. It’s a shame to let those moments slip by unnoticed. In a culture where employees are honored for those kinds of contributions, sharing the information that “Kevin really helped me with that project last night” could build trust, morale and commitment to the team and organization. 

So, this Employee Appreciation Day, show your appreciation by supporting and encouraging one another. Because really, that would make for a great place to work.  

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