How Giving Praise Increases Employee Engagement

“Thank You”, one of the most underrated words in the English language. In a fast-disappearing culture of appreciation and consideration for others, these two powerful words are given less credence. As a society, we are more likely to become outraged than offer gratitude. It’s important to note that there is tremendous power in gratitude at work. After all, “positive reinforcement leads to positive business outcomes,” Autumn Manning tells Fast Company.

Few professionals are inspired to work hard for a company that devalues their contributions. Toxic work environments are almost guaranteed to suffer low employee retention, yet so few managers seem to be able to demonstrate genuine appreciation. “We don’t think to be grateful because we’re often too preoccupied thinking about what has recently gone wrong… human beings possess a negativity bias,” says Christian Thoroughgood, assistant professor of psychology at Villanova University.

How to Incorporate Gratitude Practices

Centuries of brain conditioning can be challenging to combat. Fortunately, more recent techniques and awareness programs can make a huge difference in employee engagement. Putting into practice thoughtful positive-reinforcement practices will allow managers to engage employees through frequent feedback loops. However, many managers still struggle to provide a healthy environment that fosters appreciation encourages gratitude at work. For those that might not know what steps to take first, here are some key initiatives to improve your employee engagement.

  1. Timely Acknowledgement. When a team member goes above and beyond, solves a challenge, or exhibits excellence – time is of the essence. In the managers I coach, some still struggle with rewarding behavior that is a part of the job. Regardless if it is performance expected of the role, excellence must be acknowledged. Just as importantly, a gap in performance must also be noted and followed up with quickly.
  2. Celebrate Unique Talents. Management by mediocracy is dying a slow death. Even still: many managers still attempt to shove everyone into the same mold. From performance expectations to personal behavior, much of management is not taught how to deal with diversity. Diversity is not just skin deep. Personalities, behavior styles, cultural norms and individual talents cannot be ignored. A true leader celebrates their team member’s uniqueness and individual contributions.
  3. Consistent Feedback. Establish frequent touch-points with your team. Leverage this time to connect the employee’s contributions to the larger strategic initiatives. These frequent feedback loops also allow you to lead with positive feedback and open the floor to the team member to discuss where they see they can improve. Their insights may surprise you.

Appreciation is Not Just for Leaders

The tremendous power of gratitude at work is not only important for managers, but employees can take notes as well! If you think the onus of appreciation lies solely on the shoulders of your boss, think again. Gratitude is a two-way street, with a few intersections. Managers can use positive reinforcement just as much as the team. As a former corporate manager, I can tell you that it sometimes felt like a thankless job. Showing appreciation for your boss, when warranted, is not brown-nosing. Honest and open positive feedback will help your manager grow as well.

Appreciation is also important to show to peers. Saying “Thank You” when someone offers an idea during a meeting makes them feel more involved. Taking the time to give timely positive feedback on teamwork is also helpful. Acknowledgment is something that all humans crave and appreciate. If you struggle with the concept, take a few minutes of reflection during the work day to consider who has helped you today and how.

Encourage Gratitude at Work

Christine Comaford says, “the greater the feeling that we personally matter and make a difference and are contributing to the greater good; then the greater the success of the company, the relationship, the family, the team, the individual.”

Instead of focusing on the negative, a daily practice of appreciation can change your workplace culture for the better. Manning mentions, “Employees who feel appreciated stick around longer, and actively engage in their work.” Encouraging a culture of acknowledgment can be one of your most powerful strategic initiatives.

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  • Erin Urban

    Career growth & leadership development coach, author and speaker focused on lifting others up into powerful positive transformations.

    Erin Urban, LSSBB, is a certified professional development coach, speaker, and author with a mission to inspire powerful positive transformations. With an extensive background in leading individual, cultural and organizational change initiatives: Erin is a certified leadership development coach, Forbes Contributor, and founder of UPPSolutions, LLC. For more information, visit and connect with Erin on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.