New Orleans: Thank you message in the grotto o...

New Orleans: Thank you message in the grotto of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church; added by those for whom prayer or miracles were granted (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night, one of my colleagues gave an inspired speech about appreciation.  He defined appreciation as the act of thanking someone for a job well done, not as vain flattery, but as a sincere acknowledgment of that person’s hard work.  Indeed, he pointed out how rarely one is acknowledged for going above and beyond, although I must say that in my experience, “management” is begun to acknowledge employees.  Problem is, it is a form of blanket acknowledgment, rather than sincere recognition of those employees who go above and beyond.  In my company, there are so many employees that perhaps that would be an insurmountable task, to not only be able to monitor each and every employee, but also to then make that employee feel special.  So, our company has instituted various games and contests, with the winning contestant earning gift cards of various denominations, or other more valuable gifts.

As my colleague explained, recognition of a job well done is a gift.  It is a gift when given freely and sincerely.  And sincerity is felt, as is flattery.  Flattery does not feel genuine, and therefore does not feel good; in fact, it may actually feel demeaning if one gets the impression that he or she is being mocked.  But sincere acknowledgment is also felt.  The words used, the way they are used, the body language, and the situation for which they are used are all underpinnings of what winds up feeling genuine, deserved and ultimately good.

I love being acknowledged for a job well done.  For example, when I come across a discrepancy, and bring it to the attention of my supervisor, it would really feel great if the supervisor pointed out, “Gee, that was a good catch!” 

Sincere appreciation is akin to gratitude, about which I have written previously.  With gratitude, one feels thankful for one’s gifts, for the opportunities and situations, for the personal characteristics, for one’s strengths — even for one’s weaknesses, as a source of learning.  Where gratitude is internal, appreciation is a gift we give another.  So, without being phony, do spend some energy acknowledging the people around you. 

There seems to be a prevalent attitude that compliments might go to a person’s head.  What is meant by that is that saying something good about that person would render him or her insufferably obnoxious, with an attitude of haughty superiority.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Neurolinguistic programming suggests that the words we use affect our attitudes, and therefore, our behavior.  And our behavior affects our moods and attitudes.  Tell a child to sit in the back of the class because he doesn’t participate well, and is distracting, is a sure way to ensure that the child behaves according to that pronouncement.  The opposite is also true: that success breeds success.  And “success” can be translated to acknowledgment, gratitude, or anything that will encourage the recipient to continue to act in the direction of the words just pronounced.  Look into your own lives; recall times when you have been admonished and criticized, and times when you have been adulated.  Then, extrapolate and recall how you felt, and what you were moved to do next.  I can assure you that being complimented made you want more of the same.  And vice versa.