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Written By Mike Robertson

Published on March 8, 2023


The topic of appreciation in the workplace is one that has grown in significance with each new generation that enters the workforce. For those who have taken notice and prioritized this need, there is a common error that a well-meaning leader may fall into; treating their employees as one organism instead of a group of individuals.

When a leader views their staff in this way, the assumption that one form of recognition will satisfy all will surely backfire. Despite all of the pizza parties, certificates, or emails that a leader may create, Gallup notes that nearly one-third of employees “strongly agree” that they have not received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days”. 

The key to successfully recognizing and appreciating a team, then, is by taking time to understand how a team member wants to be shown appreciation. Here are some ways that a team member may wish to be appreciated:

Incentives or Rewards

Some employees are driven by competition, whether it be internally against other staff or externally against competitors. Showing appreciation for that competitive spirit through incentives or rewards can be highly motivating for those team members.  

The Incentive Must Match the Accomplishment""

A leader’s attempt to motivate or appreciate staff can quickly turn sour if the incentive being offered to top performers does not meet the task at hand. The first salesperson to reach a million dollars in sales should not be rewarded with a free coffee, and those who are will likely be less motivated to go above and beyond in the future. 

Rewards Can Be Surprises

While incentives are typically motivators for performance that are described before a task begins, rewards are most often provided after the fact. Do not hesitate to surprise a team member with a reward for a job well done. This is where smaller gestures can go a long way. 

Incentives Can Be Free

The initial thought for an incentive or reward is that it has some monetary value associated with it, but there are ways to show appreciation for these employees without taking funds from a budget. The incentive or reward could be a long weekend, award, or title (ex- “high performer of the week”) which can be just as valuable to some employees as more typical incentives. The only way to know for sure? Communicate and understand the needs of the team members who fall in this area.  Failure to do so could result in the common pitfall of the incentive not meeting the task. 

Recognition and Acknowledgement

Other employees may not be driven by competition, and the pressure to perform may be more of a detriment than a reward. Those employees may find that simple acknowledgment of their work is more than enough to feel appreciated at work. This style of appreciation is n""ot one size fits all, however.

Public and Personal Recognition

Depending on the preference of the employee, they may prefer to have their work acknowledged publicly or personally. 

For some employees, having their achievements acknowledged in front of their colleagues is the best way to show appreciation for their work. Taking a moment in company-wide staff meetings to acknowledge a high-performing employee or sending emails to the staff on their accomplishments not only satisfies their need for appreciation from leadership but also opens the door for additional appreciation from their colleagues. 

There are other employees who do not seek the spotlight and would prefer to not have their accomplishments shouted from the rooftops for all to hear. That does not mean, however, that they do not want to know that their effort is seen and appreciated.

The best way to connect with these staff members is through personal recognition. Stopping by their office to tell them their work is important, for example, provides a personal touch and provides the reassurance that the employee may be looking for. Another simple way to provide personal recognition is through handwritten notes or cards.

Timing is Everything

Showing appreciation in this way is best used in the moment or as quickly as the situation permits. Saving up numerous positive anecdotes for a quarterly review may leave the team member thinking “I wish I knew how much they appreciated that work a few months ago”.




Employees who might feel appreciated through this approach may be less driven by tasks, and more by relationships. This style of appreciation may take the most time out of the styles listed, but it can pay dividends if harnessed correctly. 

Quality Time is Key

Frequent, meaningful check-ins will be a key component of this approach. Getting to know the team member beyond their daily tasks and providing them with individual attention will be crucial to provide the foundation for them to be comfortable and motivated. 

Be a Connector Within Your Network

One of the most important things a mentor can be is a connector. If there is a high-performing team member who values quality time and mentorship, showing appreciation for their work by connecting them with another leader in your network can be incredibly rewarding and motivating.


Ensuring a team feels appreciated should be a top priority for all leaders. Employees that feel appreciated are also likely to be more engaged, and I have already detailed why employee engagement is crucial to the success of any organization. Have you taken the time to ask your team members how to show your appreciation for their work? If you haven’t, now is the time to ask.