Career ColumnsCareer SkillsCareersLessons on Leadership

The Transformative Power of Recognizing and Affirming Colleagues in the Workplace

By Jacquelyn Adams

I once had a colleague who was known for her emails. These weren’t your standard office communications; they were messages of gratitude, recognizing each person’s unique contributions to our team, and she CC’d the employee’s direct manager. Each message was personal and valid, with no fluff. These messages’ dramatic effect on not just a coworker’s day, but also the work environment, made one thing very clear: a little recognition goes a long way.

Case Studies: Affirmation in Action

I know, it may seem too feely and lovey-dovey for the workplace. So, let me legitimize my claims with a few case studies. Consider the examples of companies like Zappos and Southwest Airlines, where peer recognition is deeply ingrained in the company culture.

Zappos is well-known for its creative and inclusive employee recognition initiatives. Their program includes unique elements like the “Zollar” program, where employees can earn “Zollars” for helping others or performing exceptionally well. These Zollars can be redeemed for company swag. Additionally, Zappos encourages peer-to-peer recognition, allowing coworkers to give each other $50 as a form of acknowledgment. They also have the “Hero” program, where employees who go above and beyond are celebrated with a special cape, parade and other rewards, such as a particular parking spot for one quarter of that fiscal year (special parking in the winter? Sign me up!).

Southwest Airlines also has a robust employee recognition program called the Southwest Airlines Gratitude (SWAG) program. This initiative allows employees to acknowledge their peers’ efforts with points that can be redeemed for various rewards, such as merchandise, gift cards and travel incentives. The program includes features like the Winning Spirit Program and President’s Awards, recognizing extraordinary service and consistently demonstrating company values. Southwest aligns recognition with company milestones, rewarding employees with SWAG points for achieving quarterly goals. This approach fosters a culture of appreciation and community within the company.

These organizations have developed platforms and practices encouraging employees to recognize and praise each other openly. The results? Lower turnover, higher employee satisfaction, and an increase in overall productivity.

Why Recognition Matters

Ok, so maybe, despite your reservations, you are considering giving affirmations a try. Still, in the fast-paced hustle of our daily work, it’s easy to overlook the efforts of those around us. Yet, acknowledgment and appreciation are fundamental human needs. Recognizing our colleagues’ hard work, dedication and successes doesn’t just brighten their day; it fosters a positive work environment, encourages teamwork and boosts morale. It might be a change, but as we Zappos and Southwest Airlines have proven, it can yield results. So let’s break it down.

The Importance of Witnessing the Good

First, witnessing and acknowledging colleagues’ positive impact and accomplishments is pivotal. It goes beyond mere politeness; it’s vital in creating a culture of appreciation and support. Simple acts of recognition, whether through a verbal compliment, a written note of thanks, or a shout-out in a team meeting, can have profound effects. These gestures make employees feel seen and appreciated, boosting their job satisfaction and sense of belonging. My former coworker’s emails of acknowledgement are a concrete example of such an honest assessment. (Don’t bother telling people they did a great job on the presentation if they didn’t — no one wins there.)

The Ripple Effect of Affirmation

When one person takes the initiative to affirm a colleague’s work, it often creates a ripple effect. A culture of recognition and positivity can be very contagious, as it also encourages others to notice and appreciate the good work around them. This cycle of positive reinforcement not only benefits the individuals involved, but also enhances overall team dynamics and productivity.

Strategies for Effective Affirmation

To be effective, workplace affirmations must be specific, sincere and timely. Recognizing a colleague’s specific contribution during a team meeting, for example, boosts their morale and sets a positive tone for the entire team. Implementing peer-to-peer recognition programs or creating opportunities for employees to share their successes can make affirmations a regular part of the workplace culture. Here are a few more concrete examples as we start this journey together:

  • Recommend Your Workplace on Glassdoor: If you feel positively about your company, consider leaving a thoughtful review on Glassdoor. Share your experiences and insights — it’s a great way to support your company and help others seeking employment.
  • Acknowledge Excellent Customer Service: Had a great experience with a sister company or business affiliate? Write a positive review on platforms like Yelp or Google. Your feedback not only rewards the provider, but also guides future customers.
  • Send Accolades to Colleagues and Their Supervisors: Notice a colleague going above and beyond? Send an email to them and their supervisor praising their efforts. It’s a powerful way to acknowledge their hard work and can be incredibly motivating.

Affirming colleagues’ hard work and achievements in the workplace is a simple, yet powerful, act. It creates an environment where everyone feels valued and respected, leading to better teamwork, higher morale and increased productivity. By fostering a culture of recognition and appreciation, we can transform our workplaces into more supportive and connected communities. Let’s start a ripple effect of recognition and positivity.


Jacquelyn Adams

Jacquelyn Adams, founder and CEO of Ristole, uses her column to delve into the wild world of leadership. Whether the article is about her days as a Peace Corp volunteer, exploring corporate training, or even grabbing lunch at Chipotle — she will come out with a story and her “top tips.” As she passionately believes in leveraging her platform to share others’ voices, her column welcomes guest bloggers to create a fuller and more diverse pool of experiences for her readership. So, welcome to “Lessons on Leadership” where you never know what the next article will hold: online networking advice, guidelines for creating a joyful workplace, or even puppies. Just keep reading to discover what’s next!

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button