The Appreciation Curve How to Stay Ahead of Employee Dissatisfaction



“I don’t feel appreciated.”

Even people who love their jobs will sometimes find themselves wrestling with that nagging feeling. Often, they can’t quite figure out why. They run through a checklist looking for clues: My boss likes me. Check. People say thank you. Check. The company provides a fun environment and perks. Check.  So what’s the deal? What’s missing? Whatever it is can be enough to make a valued employee vulnerable to new job opportunities.

Managers are often shocked to discover a “valued” employee doesn’t feel appreciated. More often than not, they find out too late if at all. Managers also have their checklist: “I said thank you.” Check. I didn’t micromanage. Check. I praised them in front of others. Check. So what’s the deal? What could be missing? Some managers move on by chalking things up to an employee deficiency. They were too needy. Overly sensitive. Not grateful for all the company did for them. In some cases, the employee may have come to these same conclusions about themselves.


On the surface, showing appreciation seems easy enough—but, in my experience, it’s easy to confuse appreciation with other forms of approval, acknowledgement and gratitude. While we are taught to “show” appreciation, it’s really less about showing and more about knowing. What do we know about those team members whose work we value? What do they take pride in? What do they care about? What inspires them or shuts them down?

All too often, appreciation is a reaction to the way someone’s actions make us feel, a response to something someone solves for us. Flip the script. Focus outside of yourself and take the time and interest to better understand what someone’s efforts and contributions mean to them.

Appreciation takes practice and it’s not a one-way street. Whether you’re an owner, a manager, or the new kid on the block, appreciation awareness is a skill you should master. Here are a few thoughts on how to start:

·      Get to know one another—whether it’s as a team or one-on-one, take time to share values and visions, practice empathy and shift perspectives. Listening lays the foundation for a culture of appreciation.

·      Appreciate yourself. Identify those things that deepen a positive sense of self. You may be surprised what happens in terms of how you feel about others and how others feel about you.

·      Scratch the surface. Be specific when you show appreciation. If someone helps to solve a problem, praise their process– e.g. “I appreciate the questions you asked today. You did your research.” If someone is mentoring others take note – e.g. “I noticed your spending time with the intern. I appreciate that I know they do too.”

·      Consider starting with the personal before going public. Showing appreciation is an opportunity for intimacy – the appropriate, workplace kind. Connect at the micro level before taking things macro – remember, not everyone is comfortable with public displays of attention so gauge your actions accordingly.

Appreciating and awareness go hand in hand so put the cell phone down. Stop scrolling and start strolling. Making eye contact is more powerful than e-contact. Emojis are no substitute for emotions.