Have you ever thanked someone and they brushed it off? Have you ever thought someone's praise was inauthentic?
Has someone ever thanked you for work done in a way that hit the spot?
Imagine two kids - Jack and Jane. Jack grows up with two highly driven professional parents who hold corporate roles. He knows he is loved because whenever he mows the lawn, stacks the wood and rakes the leaves his dad stops for a short while and notices and comments. When he washes the dishes, sweeps the kitchen floor and clears the table his mum notices and stops briefly and thanks him and gives him a hug.
Jane also knows she is loved. Her family loves doing puzzles together, they have a sun lounge and sit and have chats over cups of coffee in the mornings, long lunches on weekends and bowls of soup in winter. They play games - darts, Monopoly and, Jane's favourite, chess.
As life has it, opposites attract and Jack marries Jane. He wants to show her how much he loves her. How do you think he does it? If you guessed mowing lawns, doing dishes, painting the house, fixing the car, etc - you would be right. Do you think that would make Jane feel loved?
According to marriage counsellor Dr Gary Chapman, this mismatch of how we feel loved is the cause of a lot of marriage breakdowns. His classic book The Five Love Languages is an excellent read on the subject.
So what does this have to do with businesses? In my experience, many business owners and managers try to show appreciation and have the same outcome as Jack and Jane above. We tend to show appreciation in the way we like to receive it. For many people this is verbal.
We tell someone they have done a good job and thank them for it. However, some people don't like public praise and will actively avoid excelling again if they think you will thank them publicly. They would much rather a personal one-on-one word of thanks.
Others prefer their words in writing. If you really mean it you would take the time to write a note. Others think words are cheap. Maybe they had a parent, sibling or friend who often promised to do something and never did, or often apologised and then repeated an offence.
One owner I worked with shared in dismay that in his staff reviews most of his team felt they were not appreciated. His anguish came from the fact that he made a point to go out daily and notice things people had done well and thank them for it. We surveyed his team and found most of them felt appreciated when somebody did something nice for them (acts of service).
That week, while the team did overtime to get out an urgent order, he had their cars valeted as a surprise thank you. They were delighted! They talked about it for months. The right action hit the appreciation spot.
Another director I work with has regular coffees with individual team members - giving them the gift of a coffee and some quality time. Many customer service managers I have worked with will leave encouraging sticky notes and/or small gifts on the desks of the team.
At home we need to be loved. At work we need to feel appreciated. It starts with knowing how you feel appreciated and then understanding how your team feels appreciated. Dr Chapman wrote The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People to help managers navigate this important concept. It's a great read if you are looking to do better in this space.
• Mike Clark is director and lead trainer and facilitator at Think Right business training company.