Did You Forget Employee Appreciation Day?! How to Make Thanks A Ritual

Every first Friday in March is the unofficially observed employee appreciation day.

You forgot, didn’t you.

I’ve got a secret to share. If you make “thanks” a part of your…I don’t know… everyday leadership practice, it is ok if you accidentally forgot this first Friday.

I can’t lie. There have been several times I’ve probably forgotten to celebrate on the unofficial “employee appreciate day” or official “administrative assistant day” or “have you hugged your janitor” day. But, it (seemingly) didn’t derail all attempts at gratitude for one good reason. Giving deserved thanks throughout the year was a regular leadership ritual of mine. Call it a cultural norm of my individual teams.

Here are some tips on how to make appreciation day fall on everyday.

  1. Never assume no-news-is-good-news. I’ve heard more leaders say, “if my employees don’t hear anything from me, they know I’m happy with their work.” That is bulls**t. What this really means is, “I’m uncomfortable telling my team how I feel, especially if it is minimally personal (aka, “Hey Joe, I appreciate you”), so I’ve decided to just not do it at all and call it a deliberate strategy”.
  2. Doing something is better than doing nothing. People overthink the simple act of showing appreciation. Was it deserved? Will I look weak? Do they hate being thanked? Is this corny? You may not be perfect in your appreciation delivery, but dang, do something.
  3. Roll up your sleeves. Yes, leaders, you are the “pilot” of the plane. Yes, it may not always be realistic or the most efficient use of your time to “do” the work you typically assign others to do. But if you want employees to know you appreciate them, stay after hours with them when a crisis happens. Or when the Board report deadline got moved to tomorrow at 8 am. Or when a team member gets sick. This builds trust like you wouldn’t believe.
  4. Ask “what can I do for you” in every single one-on-one. In every single group meeting. In every feedback form. Ask, “what can I do for you” or “how can I help you succeed.” People feel appreciated when they feel heard.
  5. Over-thank. You may come across as phony or a pushover. Worse yet, you’ll train them to stop doing work if you don’t give an auto-thanks. However, I’d rather you over-thank than do nothing!

Don’t get me wrong. Showing appreciation on any “national day” is great! But don’t wait for that one special day to bag-and-tag appreciation. Even if you do forget to give your employee the annual bouquet of fruit on this special day, they already know you care.

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