The power of acknowledgement

By Philip Park, MD of PCS

Acknowledgement is food for the human soul. Without it, we shrivel and contract. With it, we can experience the joy of being alive. It is the sunlight that allows us to grow and flourish.

I’m not talking about insincere flattery. That is always exposed for what it is: the recipient can decipher the fake signals and immediately suspects you have some hidden agenda.

I’m talking about sincere acknowledgement in all its forms: a smile when you enter the room, a nod of the head, and a rousing “Well done!” when someone has achieved a target, big or small.

Call it basic manners if you will. Manners are the social lubricant that makes us the social animals we are.

Have you ever walked into a room where others are talking and no-one acknowledges your presence? You begin to feel invisible and unwanted. Not a pleasant feeling.

The same is true in the work environment. Most people are trying their best to get through their work. Sometimes it feels like a thankless task.

Years ago, I came across an elegant way to make even the most thankless tasks seem worthwhile and important. I would set targets for employees and then reward them when the targets were met. I did this even for admin staff and those whose work may seem mundane and repetitive.

Sales people are used to targets, and you can see their moods ebb and flow depending on how well they are doing. As a manager, you have to be alert to these signals and jump right in to see what is going on: a fluffed sales presentation, a lost deal, something happening at home…. It takes a bit of digging, but it is always worth doing. This is a form of acknowledgement. It shows interest in the employee and a willingness to help get them back on track.

The word "manager" derives from the Latin "manus" or hand. Implied in this is positive direction and control.

The word “manager” derives from the Latin “manus” or hand. Implied in this is positive direction and control.

The verb manage comes from the Italian maneggiare, meaning to handle, direct or conduct. The word is originally derived from the Latin manus, meaning hand. Implied in this definition is active engagement, communication, and positive direction.

We’ve all seen bad managers who shout and belittle and we wonder how they got so high up the corporate ladder. They might make oodles of money for the company but their people management skills are woeful. I have my own private theory about this, and any manager with poor people management skills seldom lasts for long. Call it the management by invalidation theory: those who must badger and belittle their colleagues have a hidden terror of others. They suffer from an attention deficit disorder and must accumulate all the admiration and praise for themselves. It’s a pretty pathetic picture when you see it.

I have also seen managers who are extremely sparing in their praise and acknowledgement, but this made it all the more precious when it came. Praise from these individuals was like nectar from the gods.

We all have our own styles, and I prefer to be rather generous in my praise and acknowledgement. I like the people I work with, and I want to see them do well.

So here’s my suggestion: create staff awards for targets met and make a big deal when you hand them out. This is the best form of acknowledgement in the work place. On a day-to-day basis, practice basic manners, give a pat on the back, a letter of commendation and publicise your achievers in the staff newsletter. You’ll be amazed what this can do for staff morale.