Saying 'I love you' (in a work-appropriate way)

12th Feb 2010
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How often should you say thanks? Saying thank you to your employees is something which should be second nature and shouldn't happen just once a year. Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton explain how often you should tell your employees you appreciate them.

When we speak to corporate groups, we'll send out pre-surveys that ask employees to note the last time they were recognised. While we've shown in our research the most productive workplaces provide specific praise to their people every seven days, the majority of workers we survey say it's been at least six months since their last public recognition moment, and about a third say it's been longer than a year. Ouch!

So, with that in mind, how would you grade yourself and your organisation on these two scenarios? (A-E, GCSE-style, please)

On our team, when an employee gives a strong effort...

A. Public praise will occur the same day or next.

B. Employees will typically file their taxes at least twice before any appreciation is felt.

C. They'll be thankful for their jobs-they can go home and hug their dog if they want a warm and fuzzy.

When an employee really delivers exceptional results...

A. The employee will receive an award with specific accolades such as, "Sue, you continue to amaze. The way you managed the shipping consolidation project showed true ownership, one of our core values. Thanks to your team's work, we are now able to meet customer demands in half the time. Thank you."

B. She will get praised, but the appreciation will inevitably include the word 'but,' as in "Sue, nice work on that project. But I think you could have done it even faster if you had..."

C. The phrase, "she gets recognition every two weeks in her paycheck," will be bandied about.

We hope you gave yourself a couple of As. Sadly, research tells us that isn't the case for the majority of us. Managers, supervisors and other leaders usually don't know the impact of their actions. And most don't know where to begin in recognising their people.

One simple way to begin building a Carrot Culture is to remember that effective recognition is frequent. To hit that 'every seven days' goal, your methods will need to vary from providing specific words of encouragement, to hand writing a note of thanks, to thanking a team member in a staff meeting, and so on.

What's interesting is that almost all of us understand the need for this type of frequent recognition in our personal lives, but we don't translate this to our business lives. Think of it this way: Have you ever been in love? How often do you tell your significant other that you love them?

In our personal lives, we tell those closest to us that they are important to us just about every day. We say it with three simple words, "I love you". At work, it's even easier. We tell employees that they are important to us by saying just two words, "thank you", about once a week. But ask yourself, how often do you tell those that work with and for you that you appreciate them?

To illustrate this point, the amazing animator Sean Womack has put together a fabulous little film. It takes about a minute to watch, and we promise you'll never forget the message. Check out the world premiere of 'Don't Say I Love You' right now and send it to anyone you think might benefit from the message.

Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton are recognition consultants with the O.C. Tanner Company and acclaimed authors of the New York Times bestseller 'The Carrot Principle'. For more information visit


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