• Recognizing and supporting the positive values demonstrated in other people’s actions
  • Fostering an environment that encourages GuideMarks and other healthy behaviors
  • Acknowledging, with specificity, the good work of others

Over the course of the last several years, we have discussed reinforcing the good in terms of the “hows and whys” behind the GuideMark, encouraging you to provide specific, honest, timely feedback. Reinforcing the good makes people feel well, good. It impacts attitudes, engagement, and in some cases, the recipient’s self-worth. 

But is it that easy? After all, it takes time to reinforce the good and sometimes what seems like a great idea to reinforce the good may cause the recipient to feel uncomfortable at the increased praise and attention. Wouldn’t it be easier if this feedback went without saying and it was just understood that you appreciate them? What would be the problem with that? 

According to an Academy-Award nominated film, a report I found via a Google search, and one my favorite authors, when this feedback loop is left implied or worse ignored, it leads to team members feeling disregarded, disengaged, and demotivated. 

Feeling Disregarded - If you have seen (or bonus for points, read), The Devil Wears Prada, then you have numerous examples of a bad feedback loop. When Miranda (Meryl Streep) wasn’t berating her assistants, she was ignoring them, which was a problem for the assistants and for her because things weren’t often done right, or at least, the way she wanted them done. For her assistants, feeling disregarded is an understatement. Miranda often ignored her assistant’s requests for more information. As a result, the assistants were always guessing at what she wanted and whether they had done things right. Miranda wasted staff time by not being clear and providing detail. Her ignored assistants wasted valuable time (and money) trying to guess how she wanted things done. Had there been timely and specific feedback, the assistants could have produced consistent outcomes to Miranda’s requests, saving her time and headache. Instead, she couldn’t keep an assistant for more than a year.  
Feeling Disengaged - According to a Gallup poll cited in Globoforce Spring 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker report, there is a significant drop-off in job satisfaction and engagement between year one and year two, and another decrease in year three. What is the common factor in this disengagement aside from time served? Manager appreciation and acknowledgement. Per the report, 94 percent of employees surveyed felt appreciated and acknowledged during year one; however, at year two only 55 percent of respondents still enjoyed their position and only 71 percent feel appreciated. Let’s go to the charts:

But the report is not all doom and gloom from employees reporting after the newness of the job wears off. In the same report, employees that had received feedback from supervisors within the last six months reported only a slight decline and in regards to feeling appreciated, actually reported higher in year two than year one.
I admittedly do not know much about this study or how the respondents were chosen, so I wont be making any conclusive remarks, but it does cause pause and to make one think, when is the last time I recognized an employee/team member/colleague? Has it been more than 6 months? If so, you may want to check these out and get to it.  
Feeling Demotivated - Dan Ariely wrote about the importance of recognition in his book The Upside of Irrationality. Ariely described an experiment where two groups of participants were asked to build Bionicles (a line of construction based toys created by Lego), receiving nominal reimbursement for each Bionicle completed. For the first group of participants, the completed Bionicles were displayed on their desks for the duration of the experiment, allowing them to see (and at the same time show others) their contribution to the project. When participants from the second group brought their completed Bionicle to the “supervisor”, they were given another Bionicle to complete while the just-completed toy was deconstructed in front of them. Participants that were allowed to display their assembled Bionicles built an average of 10.2 figurines, while those whose work was disassembled built an average of only 7.2. Ariely goes on to discuss the findings stating that “even the smallest acknowledgment increased willingness to work[.]”

I doubt that anyone reading this actively berates their colleagues without providing any kind of positive acknowledgement for more than 6 months while destroying their work in front of them. But hyperbole aside, are your colleagues having to guess at your instruction and then whether they did it right, or is your feedback specific? Do you save acknowledgement for annual reviews, or are you actively providing timely feedback? Are you acknowledging exemplary work, or treating all output like it is the same set of widgets?

Reinforcing the good isn’t always easy. To do it right it requires your time, energy and sincerity. This week, look for an opportunity to reinforce good and help avoid someone from feeling disregarded, disengaged, and demotivated. 

Key Words and Phrases
Encourage a response; Support; Reward an action; Strengthen or increase; Instruct; Boost or shore up; Affirm and validate; Foster and sustain; Bolster or amplify; Emphasize or stress.

Opposite Terms
Ignore; Undermine; Weaken; Tear down.

GuideMarks – Distinguishing Characteristics of FFL E-rate Guides

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