added value

I read this article this morning, and agree so strongly with it, that I felt compelled to write on the topic of appreciation and value in the workplace.

Many student affairs departments are often branded as “high touch” or “too soft” particularly in comparison with their academic counterparts.  Does genuinely appreciating the work of others make you “too soft”? I don’t think so.  And what about a student-centred approach? Does that denote a “high touch” environment? My opinion is that we work in student affairs, it we aren’t student-centred, then what business do we have working in this field?

Having worked in four different housing & residence life departments, and with a number of supervisors, colleagues, and students, I can safely say that providing positive feedback comes easier to some than it does to others, and some organizational cultures value it more than others.

In a time of incredible competition for students, institutions should pay more attention to how much value they place on their employees.  I believe in the trickle-down effect.  If an institution’s top administrators emphasize value and show it through their daily work and interactions, this will catch on.  It becomes a part of the culture of the institution.  This trickles all the way down to the students.  If employees feel valued for their work, they’re more likely to interact positively with students.  In turn, this makes the student feel more valued, and reinforces the reason they chose the school they did.

Think of the other side of this.  If the perception is that employees are not valued, from the top down, what impact does that have on their interactions with the students?  How many times have we seen people refuse to do any work outside the realm of their job description, simply because they feel the work they do is not valued or appreciated.  This can be an awfully slippery slope.  A supervisor may view this as a “lack of initiative” and find a way to remove that person from their position, without ever getting to the root of the issue.  What a missed opportunity!

Individuals like to be acknowledged and recognized in different ways, so ask those you work with what they prefer.  Remember it and implement it.  They’ll appreciate it and be more likely to appreciate you.

How do you show your appreciation for the work of others?

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2 Comments

  1. Given that some people are better than others at giving sincere appreciation – is it still beneficial if it is forced or doesn’t seem genuine? I know some practitioners who recognize every little thing sincerely and others who do it every once in a while but it feels forced and isn’t meaningful. How do those that are not as good as others get better at it?

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Evan. I agree, it can come across as forced or unnatural when someone is uncomfortable showing their appreciation. For some, they’ve never been “shown” or role-modelled how to provide feedback. I think it needs to start with reflection. Ask yourself “how do I like to be recognized?” and consider the times that someone made you feel great (or not so great) based on their feedback.

      I do believe it’s important to ask the people you work with (not just your direct reports) how they like to be recognized. Some prefer grand gestures in public, while others are content with a quiet thank you behind closed doors. Without knowing this, you might go with the “wrong” approach (for the person who prefers a quiet thank you, a grand public gesture might be terrifying) and come across as disingenuous to that person.

      I’m a fan of the personal and specific approach. If you tell me I’m doing a great job, while that’s nice to hear, it doesn’t have the same impact if you had told me you appreciated the overtime I put in to ensuring the success of XYZ project. Again, it’s different for everyone though!

      Thanks again for reading, and commenting. I appreciate the feedback.

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