Manage Your BusinessLeadershipMotivation Through Appreciation: The Science Behind a Happy Workplace

Motivation Through Appreciation: The Science Behind a Happy Workplace

Forget costly company trips and lavish awards ceremonies. It’s possible to motivate your employees at the cost of only a few words. According to the Center for Talent Innovation, what really drives workplace enjoyment and productivity is a sense of belonging.

appreciationThis should come as no surprise when considering that humans, who are social, tribal creatures, spend on average of upwards of 30% of their lives at work. However, despite the progress in discussions around company culture and incentivizing performance, a large portion feels excluded and unhappy at their workplaces. A May 2018 Cigna study revealed that 46% of Americans sometimes or always feel alone, and only 53% feel they have meaningful connections with others on a regular basis. One in five, they found, don’t feel like they have anyone they can talk to. Keeping in mind how much of a person’s time is spent at the office, these figures should concern employers.

These conditions become even worse when employees feel as though their efforts go unrecognized. Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and business economics at Duke University, gave a TED talk in 2012  where he explained that more than money; recognition and appreciation for the work someone does are key to motivation. “Ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort in front of their eyes,” Ariely affirmed.

This is why motivation through appreciation and recognition is so important and effective. And it doesn’t need to be costly either. Meaningful interactions with employees take only a few minutes of your time and yield high pay-offs.

To start with, make it a practice to engage in small-talk with your employees on a daily basis. These chats should be focused on checking-in with the employee, giving them an understanding that you care about them, their lives and their well-being. It’s important that these interactions are genuine, which means actively listening and taking note of what’s being said, and responding appropriately to openings or other cues.


Quick catch-ups with employees don’t need to take place at a set time. Find ways to mingle throughout the day as you pass by desks or meet people in elevators, and take chance, informal encounters as opportunities to find out how someone’s doing.

In addition to catching up with your employees’ personal lives, catch up with their work lives as well. Find out how their projects are going and use the updates as opportunities to provide positive affirmation. When appropriate, share their successes publically with the team and demonstrate verbally the appreciation you have for their efforts.

Finally, show your respect and recognition for your employees’ education, knowledge and ingenuity by seeking their advice and opinions. Honor what they bring to the table, and they’ll reciprocate by being more motivated toward their assigned roles, and by taking initiative past what they’re required to do by their contracts.

It’s understandable to assume that employees will be motivated by paychecks and personal passion toward their work, but the truth is, all people need just a little bit more. By motivating through appreciation, you’ll find you soon have a happier, more productive work environment.

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Chana Perton
Chana Perton
Chana Perton is a contributing writer and investigative journalist for ASBN.

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