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So Much for Employee Appreciation Day. What Employees Really Want is Respect.

How to value and recognize your team the other 364 days of the year

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Employee Appreciation Day needs an overhaul. Some free pastries once a year do not make anyone actually feel appreciated, let alone respected. And respect is what really drives success for an organization. It’s my goal to show employees respect day in and day out. If your team knows you trust and value them, they’re going to feel more confident and fulfilled. Why limit those efforts to one day per year? Employee Appreciation Day is simply not enough. 

So how do you genuinely demonstrate respect for your staff 365 days a year? I’m sharing four universally applicable tenets for recognizing employees and, therefore, setting the foundation for a successful business. 

Transparency

A lot of leaders are nervous about revealing anything about their business to their teams. It’s the corporate default to keep big decisions and changes, challenges, P&Ls and even project budgets behind closed C-suite doors. I’ve discovered there’s a lot more we can share from the top down without any detriment to the business. In fact, I’ve experienced increased transparency leading to stronger teamwork and focus in recent years. I make it a point to report about KPIs at every staff meeting and remain earnestly open to answer questions, even the tough ones, regardless of seniority level of those inquiring. 

To me, transparency is the most important pillar of employee respect. If our teams feel that they’re in the know and understand what is going on — good and bad — they’ll feel more ownership and opportunity to make an impact. They’ll feel respected and appreciated. 

Autonomy

Respect also means allowing people to do their jobs with freedom from being micromanaged. In our business, the heads of each department are all extremely accomplished, talented experts in their fields. Of course we want them to be the ones presenting about their initiatives and leading the ideation for new projects.

When scope is clearly defined and management is actively supportive, delegating can empower employees at all levels. In our case, this strategy is reflected physically in how our biweekly staff meetings run. After kicking off the meetings and reporting on key metrics, I literally walk to the back of the room and let various team members lead us through their presentations, new product updates and announcements. It’s important for those speaking to gain that experience, and also for those aspiring to get to that point to see the opportunity right in front of them. 

Investment

Fostering autonomy requires leaders to challenge their teams and ask: “what do you think?” Managers aren’t here to make all of the decisions. That freedom means sometimes people will experience necessary failures as they grow within the company. Each employee trajectory is unique and each relationship calls for its own type of management. It is our responsibility as leaders to guide our employees through both the ups and downs of their own professional growth journeys.

I’ve always seen professional development as a core role of any manager and, over the years, have curated my perspective on helping employees evolve. It comes down to this: we have plenty of opportunities to tell people they’re doing great. Take those opportunities. But if you’re only giving positive feedback, your team members are either absolutely perfect, or you’re not being thoughtful about developing them.

To set yourself up to be the most valuable manager you can be, take that open door policy seriously, actively listen, and share feedback in weekly meetings, during reviews and in appropriate moments as things come up. 

Integrity

The ultimate form of respect is when somebody treats you with fairness, integrity and consistency, whether or not others are watching. There’s a lot to be gained from acting ethically and staying true to your values despite the inevitable ebbs and flows of your business. This means actively respecting others’ time, being willing to have unexpected and difficult discussions, participating in team-building activities, and communicating directly. 

Operating with integrity and setting the tone for the team also calls for bringing your best work to the table. Something I greatly appreciate about Charity Network, and know is uncommon, is the amount of “actual work” we all do, regardless of seniority or role within the company. Just because someone is in a management position does not mean they sit with their feet up and sign off on others’ ideas. Here, we are all working to not only pull our weight, but go beyond our designated roles and contribute as much as possible. I think anyone can attest to feeling more motivated to push through the grind when you know your whole team is equally committed to success. 

My goal with adhering to these four pillars is to consistently demonstrate respect for my colleagues. There’s no way to do that in just one eight-hour workday. I’m not calling for a boycott of Employee Appreciation Day, but I am asserting that checking the box with some office treats one day per year is not meaningful employee engagement. When people are genuinely respected, they want to contribute and want to be part of leading their company to success. 

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