How do we work to create a culture where we appreciate each other?

Appreciation – profitable but neglected

Do you think a group with a sense of community performs better? That a group where employees are engaged and feel appreciated is more productive (like 20%) and less likely  (also like 20%)  to resign so you have to reimburse them with all the costs involved. If not, you can probably stop reading here.  Otherwise, you are probably interested in the opportunity to increase the togetherness of a group.

What is it that creates harmony and togetherness in a group? Common experiences, that we have success and also adversity together, are important parts. It is also important that we show appreciation for each other, for what we do and the people that we are. Through appreciation, we show the group’s common values, we tell each other that we like each other and help each other, and we strengthen the group’s resilience to disruptions at work.   

Despite this, appreciation isa neglected area. Manyorganizations are not actively working on the issue, and even more people are working in ways that do nothave the positive effect they want to achieve.

Let me address three of the most common waysone to spread appreciation and my conclusions around them.

Appreciation as part of a performance review

In today’s working life, it is natural to have development/feedback talks, where we get to hear what we are good at and get appreciation for this. Often we hear very positive things about ourselves, it is also part of the basic course for a  development conversation – more positive points than points aimed at further development and improvement. The downside of limiting our appreciation to these conversations is obvious – we just don’t remember it…

In addition, it is often in the nature of a performance review that it takes place between the manager / employee, so we do not hear what our colleagues think of us.

Regardless of what we call it, the development talk aims for us to develop and improve, and in human nature lies that we then capture what can be perceived as negative. We do this because we are programmed to avoid negative and dangerous situations.

Development talks – feedback talks – are important and have their place in every organization where you want to develop and improve, but the importance for us humans to feel appreciated is far too great for us to let the appreciation be overshadowed by feedback.

Verbal appreciation in daily work

The short words after a performance – “well done”, “good presentation”, “thank you to the team that met the deadline” – feel good to hear, and we feel seen and appreciated. Both if it is to us personally or if they are expressed more publicly.

This type of appreciation fulfills an important function but is unfortunately usually a little too superficial. What exactly is a “good presentation”? If you’re thinking about the very best presentations you’ve seen, in different contexts, were they similar? Probably not. Someone was good because it was extremely focused and pithy, someone else gave a great overall picture. Someone used a large number of pictures with examples, while someone talked completely without aids. So what was it about your particular presentation that was good, were you told?  When you are not only told that someone liked your presentation, but that it was due to the particular area where you put in extra commitment, it feels extra valuable to you.

Usually it is up to the “boss” to give this kind of appreciation.  Organizations  often think that they have a culture where you appreciate each other, but unfortunately, surveys show that we as employees all too often do not feel catered by  our colleagues. And if you don’t give your colleague a word of appreciation, who will give you one?  So, shouldn’t we work more on showing our appreciation for the colleagues we depend on to succeed?

Use tools to spread appreciation

At first glance, it may seem boring with a tool to spread appreciation, but think about the “like” function in various social media – the strength of the technology is extremely clear.  More and more tools are coming onto the market, where we can show our appreciation to our colleagues, either internally within the company but also on public social networks. It’s incredibly powerful, the challenge lies in getting it really relevant and above all persistent.  For it to be relevant, we need to get past “good presentation”, which can sometimes be difficult to do when our words can be read by the whole world.

Persistent – this is where it gets really interesting. What is it that makes a behavior stick, that it becomes part of the culture? Or, conversely, why does it often slowly drain into the sand?  We can find the answer in behavioral science – the perceived consequence determines whether our behavior is reinforced or not.  Simply sharing appreciation does not provide a sufficient positive reinforcement in ourselves. Sure, it feels good to brighten someone else’s day, we’ll be happy about it.  (If you don’t believe me, try saying something positive to some colleague right now.)

But what if we could link your action of appreciation directly to a strong positive feeling in yourself? That when you show appreciation, you also get to know for yourself what your colleagues really like about you.  Then stuff really starts to happen.

That is the goal that we should strive for, to be able to reinforce a behavior with   appreciation by giving back appreciation. When it succeeds, we have an increasingly strong culture of showing appreciation.  We get our dopamine kicks, and it feels natural that they dem to our co-workers.


A conscious effort to create a culture where appreciation is a natural part creates more productive organizations, where people thrive and want to be involved.

  • Appreciation during development talks is needed to pave the way for the opportunity to provide areas for improvement but has a limited value when it comes to making employees feel appreciated.
  • Appreciation in daily work is important and should strive to get past the sometimes slightly superficial level to have real effect.
  • Tools in various forms are an easy way to reach out with appreciation, but if they do not include a clear positive reinforcement for the donor, it will be difficult to have a real impact on the culture.

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