Best Practices

Make Room for Gratitude and Recognition at Work, or Don’t


Complaining about our job is just what we, people, do. It’s really as natural as being annoyed by public transport delay, slow Wi-Fi, or screaming kids in a movie theatre.

It becomes a real issue when the usual social whining turns in actual job dissatisfaction. When Employees complain about workplace demotivation, dysfunctional work relationships, and an overall poor work experience, what can their managers do to bridge the divide and support a healthy, happy, and driven workforce?  

Job dissatisfaction is not to be seen as the main problem, rather than a symptom of a more serious but treatable disorder

So we established that job dissatisfaction is a problem. Well done. Great. Now who is to be blamed? And what causes job dissatisfaction anyway?

Surely it has to be the perks offered (or the lack of it), or maybe the physical workspace itself is contributing to their unhappiness. Ok, then it must be because of highly annoying coworkers or a boss who takes maniacal pleasure in squashing happiness, hope and peace on earth. Actually, no wait! It’s most probably about money. It’s always about money, right?

In truth, Psychometrics Canada Ltd (PCL) surveyed Canadian HR professionals working in business, government, consulting, education, and nonprofit organizations and came up with startling findings. They’ve compiled a (very short) list of what influences employee satisfaction the most and it turns out that for most employees, the answer to their job dissatisfaction is simple really. It’s about having “MORE”.

More “control over how to do their work”, more “opportunities to use their skills”, more fluid and positive “relationships with management and leadership” leading to a more “mentally stimulating job”.

It is not simply about salary, benefits or potential career advancement (what influences their engagement the least, according to the survey), but really about clear communication and simple recognition.

Alright. So, what can we do then to boost employee recognition?

That’s where Einstein can help. Other than having developed the theory of relativity (a.k.a. one of the two pillars of modern physics) the well-known German-born theoretical physicist is quoted as having said that if he had one hour to save the world he would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution. In other words, step back, please. Be like Einstein. Look at the problem. Define it. Understand it. Then solve it.

69% of the surveyed professionals indicated that engagement is a problem in their organizations

yet as much as 55.8% of organizations do not measure engagement and 60% of them do not have a direct plan of action to help them focus on engagement.

These numbers are surprising, to say the least, learning that a whole 35% of the workforce is disengaged, that disengaged employees have more dysfunctional work relationships (29%), that they are 25% less productive and that their unwillingness to go beyond the job description is stronger (17%).

“a whole 35% of the workforce is disengaged”

Hold on there’s more…

However, PCL has more stunning news. It appears that disengaged people won’t leave your organization. Instead, they tend to stay, stick around and damage both productivity and relationships in your business. Frightening but not so surprising. In the end, people are change and risk averse. They would rather go with the devil they know than the one they don’t.

This is certainly one of the main reasons why organizations should address employee dissatisfaction – It really acts like a disease if left unchecked infecting the workforce at large. It’s one thing to have a single employee affected by a reduction in productivity, however if their peer circle is being constantly exposed to the lethargic attitudes of their coworkers, this will inevitably have a degrading effect on employee morale and productivity overall.

Again, 35% of people are disengaged, although 69% think that engagement is a problem in their organization. In other words, people do care. They care because they are personally affected and they want their bosses to address the problem (only less than 0.5% felt that engagement is not an important issue). Moreover, 84% of the respondents indicated that senior leaders and managers are primarily responsible for employee engagement.

Fair or not, the good news is that organizations can do something about it.

When asked what leaders could do more of to improve engagement, respondents endorsed these actions: communicate clear expectations (71%), listen to employees’ opinions (62%), and give recognition (52%).

That’s it. Not exactly rocket science, right? Like for most things in life, all you need is genuine intent. So make room for gratitude in your business culture, with inspiration, fair practices, and a meaningful, personalized recognition program. It is very doable!

It begins with changing what leaders believe in. And then changing how they lead.