Project Practitioners > The flipside of a shameful lack of appreciation

The flipside of a shameful lack of appreciation

By Cinda Voegtli

Today someone took the time to appreciate me and it made my day.  Nothing big, just an unexpected response to a regular "reminder" email I put out, not expecting replies.  This person took the time to write back and thank me for doing the reminders (and managing to be humorous at least some of the time!), and to comment back on something I had written.   I appreciated the appreciation and it gave me a little jolt of energy.

A few weeks ago I went home for a memorial service for a man who was very influential to a big group of people during my college days.  One of the speakers reminded us that one of Frank's favorite things, a consistent action, was to clasp a person's hand, look into their eyes, and say, "You know, I really appreciate you."     Frank took the time to speak to the students involved in his organization in a very personal way, no matter what level of role or "importance" they had in the volunteer org structure, letting them know very specific things he appreciated in their character and their actions.   Hundreds of ex-college students who had given of their time in Frank's organization now showed up for the memorial to pay tribute.  More than a few shared how much his influence and specifically his appreciation of them had meant to them.

But now the other side of the coin. (the "shameful" side of the title).   My husband came home from work one day and told me about a 'miraculous turnaround' in attitude in a previously "hard-to-work-with" person. In this case, the person had evidently been particularly grumpy and prickly for some period of time, leading to other perceived issues.   

Being hard to work with himself sometimes :-) and firmly believing there's usually a good reason for it, my husband had set off to investigate.  AHA!    He took what he learned to his manager:  “A really critical piece of work just got done.   Greg is THE REASON this got done, but he’s getting absolutely no credit for it.  He just keeps getting dumped on without any upside.   And furthermore, so-and-so SHOULD have done this work, and didn’t  -  but Greg had the initiatve to pick it up and finish it.   We really need to make sure Greg gets acknolwedged for this."  

The manager was somewhat surprised - this was evidently a novel idea. (What- give an adhoc attaboy to someone ? You mean that will  really matter?"  But he latched onto it and did it proud.  That manager  sent an email to Greg's manager and copied a few other important people, relaying thanks and kudos for the fact that Greg had stepped up unbidden, pulled something important out of the fire, and gotten it done to the overall salvation of that part of the project....  


WELL.  As you can imagine, this was the source of the "miracle"change in behavior.    Very quickly there was one incredibly happy team member who went from grumpy and prickly to walking into certain offices (guess whose?)  VOLUNTEERING to take on more.... Proactively asking, "What else can I do to help you with your part of stuff?"   


Sincere appreciation, recognition, thanks for work taken on (big or small), special thanks for initiative taken...  Are we showing it, giving it, or are we too showing a shameful lack of appreciation?     Where can we take a few minutes to show more?  Hey, where can we go point out to someone else, like that manager, a legitimate place to show more? 


And all this is not to be saved for the end-of-the-project reward cycle!   The message to me from these three vignettes is that of course it makes a heck of a lot more difference to do our appreciating day to day.    A little jolt of energy delivered by a simple 5 minute acknowledgement.   A boost of personal confidence courtesy of a few affirming words.   Major changes in behavior ignited by an honest appraisal and acknowledgement of work done well.  

Who should you be appreciating today?


Related Links
Recognition is something everyone wants, be it spontaneous or in the annual review, we all desire to be acknowledged for the work we do. Consider using the suggestions provide in the case study "Sweet" Team Building and Performance Appraisal Process Summary and Forms for Project Leaders and Team Members. Learn about a different way to provide well placed recognition in an Agile way.

Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

This is a very touching column Cinda. The story of Frank and genuineness of his gestures is something those individuals will never forget.

Encouragement and recognizing hard work and effort is essential for a thriving and fulfilling work environment. Being specific about the achievement is key. Generalities do not have the same impact as explaining the significance of what was done. I never seem to forget the specific and insightful appreciation I have received throughout the years. In fact I can still remember discussions as far back as my elementary school teacher because of the depth of discovery he made.

Very nice... God bless Frank, and let's wish to have more and more "Frank"s around us in our workplace and daily life; who can distinguish between a man/woman, and a coffee machine or laptop!

Your column is very good. Let me add my own favorite column that I cut-and-pasted from I don't know where:

In Forbes magazine, columnist Rich Karlgaard once related a story he was told by Nancy Ortberg, an emergency room nurse who was finishing up work one night before heading home.

“The doctor with whom I was working was debriefing a new doctor, who had done a very respectable, competent job, telling him what he’d done well and what he could have done differently.

“Then he put his hand on the young doctor’s shoulder and said, ‘When you finished, did you notice the young man from housekeeping who came in to clean the room?’ There was a completely blank look on the young doctor’s face.

“The older doctor said, ‘His name is Carlos. He’s been here for three years. He does a fabulous job. When he comes in he gets the room turned around so fast that you and I can get our next patients in quickly. His wife’s name is Maria. They have four children.’ Then he named each of the four children and gave each child’s age.

“The older doctor went on to say, ‘He lives in a rented house about three blocks from here, in Santa Ana. They’ve been up from Mexico for about five years. His name is Carlos,’ he repeated. Then he said, ‘Next week I would like you to tell me something about Carlos that I don’t already know. Okay? Now, let’s go check on the rest of the patients.”

Ortberg recalls: “I remember standing there writing my nursing notes - stunned - and thinking, I have just witnessed breathtaking leadership.”

Fostering mutual respect among colleagues is perhaps the most important ingredient for building and sustaining a healthy organization. It is people who matter most.

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