My friend recently posted a very thoughtful post about When Buddhism in Business is a Bad Idea. To summarize:
In the past year I’ve interacted on a personal level with several people who bring Buddhist principles to the office. Each of them have told me their goal is to treat all people equally. As a manager, it’s driven by a desire not to appear to give preference to someone, or to look like they’re playing favorites.
On the surface this seems like a brilliant idea. But here’s how it made me (and many others I know) feel: unheard, unseen, unvalued, unappreciated, unimportant, average and just-like-everyone else.
In the workplace, we have all kinds of people. Some need pressure to perform; others wilt under it. Some employees need to be heard and acknowledged by their boss, while others need little to no recognition to feel they’re part of the team.
While I understand the desire to treat people equally, I can clearly think of instances where the same event and set of circumstances was seen positively by one person, neutral by another, and negatively by a third.
This got me to thinking about what started to feel like a very related concept: praise. In particular, how to successfully and mindfully give and receive praise. Because I know I perform better when my hard work and efforts are acknowledged and thanked, this is a topic that I have put much thought into over the years. In fact, when I was working full time, I had a directory in my email inbox labeled “ILM” which stood for “I Love Me”. I would file away any emails that I received offering thanks, expressing gratitude, or that generally gave me a warm fuzzy feeling, and when I was having a rough day, I knew I could go and peruse those emails to help bump up my self-esteem.
When I left my full time job last year, I looked in my ILM directory. The last email I had added to that directory was from a year and a half previously.
When you Google search for praise, it is easy to find a long list of articles on why praise is bad in childhood development. So let’s take a look at the definition of praise:
To express warm approval sounds pleasant. I even found an article focused on the benefits of Giving Praise. In particular, it points out that recognition and praise can outrank base salary in importance to an employee.
…[a] study on trust in the workplace shows that 54% of those polled would work for less [pay] if the following trust building factors were present:
- Importance: giving people a sense of importance about who they are and about their role in the organization;
- Touch: feeling that the leader genuinely cares about them, feeling a connection with the leader;
- Gratitude: being appreciated for their contributions and sacrifices; receiving genuine gratitude;
- Fairness: knowing that leaders ensure equal and fair distribution of rewards.
Following down the rabbit hole, I went back to the definition of praise looked up the definition for admiration, which lead me to define appreciation, which lead me to define recognition.
In particular, acknowledgement of something’s existence resonates deeply with me. “I see you. I hear you. I recognize you.” What profound statements.
I found another article, The Power of Positive Employee Recognition, that asks the question, Why is Recognition so Scarce?
In my experience, employee recognition is scarce because of a combination of several factors. People don’t know how to provide employee recognition effectively, so they have bad experiences when they do. They assume that one size fits all when they provide employee recognition.
Back to the “treat everyone equally” mantra. The solution posited is simple: ask what makes an individual feel rewarded.
Remember that employee recognition is situational. Each individual has a preference for what he finds rewarding and how that recognition is most effective for him. One person may enjoy public recognition at a staff meeting; another prefers a private note in her personnel file. The best way to determine what an employee finds rewarding is to ask.
For me, quilting is rich in a level praise and recognition that makes me feel deeply rewarded. Quilts get used and snuggled and loved. I sleep under quilts I made every night. Occasionally I get to see others using my quilts. I also have the privilege to interact with a vibrant community of other quilters (you!) who can answer questions when I am stumped, donate their time, fabric, and sewing skills, and who I enjoy having conversations and discussions through blog posts like this.
What makes you feel rewarded and motivated? Do the same things that make you excited to quilt resonate back to other areas of your life?