1 833 APPLAUZ Language:

Giving Gratitude in the Workplace: A Guide For Managers

published: February 3, 2020

How Often Should you Reward & Recognize Employees?

We all know that rewards are motivating.

For example, thinking about a slice of decadent chocolate cake or a cold beer waiting for you in your fridge is a great way to push you through the end of a long workday. However, not all rewards are created equal. And to add another layer of complexity, the “how” and “when” of reward-giving also impacts motivation.

Sohow can managers offer rewards that maximize employee motivation and loyalty? Early psychological research on human motivation offers us fascinating answers to this very important question.

The Key is: Spontaneity

A famous psychologist B.F. Skinner discovered that what continuously motivates people (well, in his case, pigeons) is intermittent and uncertain rewards, or what he called “reinforcements.”

This psychological principle called “Operant Conditioning” is the reason why slot machines can be so enticing and addictive, simply because the reward is spontaneous and unpredictable.

In the context of reward-giving at work, it’s a fine line to balance.

Some rewards and recognitions should be given regularly, such as work anniversaries, birthdays, or a reward to accomplish a given goal. However, other types of recognition and rewards should be given spontaneously, as these types of rewards have a strong emotional impact and are perceived as more genuine.


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How to Offer Employee Recognition That Feels Genuine 

Early research on human motivation suggests we are moved into action by spontaneous or unpredictable rewards. However, this theory and research simply scratches the surface of human motivation.

As you assume and know from your own experience, human motivation is complex. People want to be rewarded with tangible goods and money, but those external rewards are not enough to be genuinely motivating in the long-term.

Ultimately, people want to feel good about what they’re doing to achieve an external goal. In short, the process is important, too. Employees want to feel a sense of mastery and respect. This can be woven into your recognition program through verbal recognition, praise, and validation of skills.

That said, here are three (3) tips to keep in mind when offering gratitude at work.

1-Be grateful for the person, not just the job they do

Cultivating a positive and engaging environment begins with expressing gratitude beyond what people do at your company.

Workers should be appreciated for more than simply accomplishing their day-to-day responsibilities. Instead, focus on expressing gratitude for their unique Asset 66insights, skills, contributions, and also for their personality.

Expressing gratitude for someone’s “soft” skills like their contagious positive attitude and sense of humour, or keen ability to think critically, is a great way to ensure gratitude is sincere and genuine.

2-Everyone deserves Applauz!

A recognition program is NOT a popularity contest.

To avoid turning it into one, make sure to recognize different types of actions, accomplishments, and, most importantly, various groups and individuals.

Don’t give recognition to the same people over and over.

Everyone on your team deserves Applauz! Make sure to express gratitude to groups and individuals who occupy less visible (but critical) roles in a company as well.Asset 84i

For example, it’s easy to show appreciation for a developer that pushes a new feature, but what about the people behind the scenes. Those who stay late organizing social events, or the staff in the warehouse, or IT support that sets up all the systems that allow people actually to do their work every day.

For a culture of appreciation and gratitude to truly flourish, express gratitude to everyone, for actions big and small.

3-Think about how individual employees prefer to be appreciated

This tip is not about what you say, but how you’re saying it. You can give praise publicly, privately, over email, chat, face-to-face, or in a group meeting.

In short, there are countless ways to give praise. So make sure to express gratitude and appreciation in a way (and via a medium) that will respect and resonate with each employee.


bigstock-Excited-Diverse-Business-Team--283130668Recognition Checklist: 7 Things to Consider 

To avoid diluting your recognition program, you should be offering recognition to employees who do more than their simple day-to-day jobs.

Although it’s important to show gratitude for all everyone, employees are normally thanked for accomplishing their basic yearly goals with an anniversary gift or praise and feedback during an annual performance review.

The reality is, yearly gratitude simply isn’t enough for modern workers to feel appreciated. 

That’s why peer-to-peer recognition program exists; it intended to fill in the gaps and offer much-needed spontaneous and genuine rewards and recognition outside of traditional corporate milestones.


In addition, publicly recognizing, praising, and rewarding employees that set a good example shines a light on top-performing employees and sets a precedent for all other employees to strive to meet the same quality standards.

To make the most of your recognition program, ask yourself these questions before offering recognition:

  • Did the employee or group’s effort translate into measurable improvements in key performance metrics (ie. sales, new leads, website traffic, etc)
  • Did the employee or group in question accomplish a task, assignment, or goal with higher-than-average efficiency or quality?
  • Did this employee’s effort and actions facilitate a team objective?
  • Did this employee’s attitude or enthusiasm helped consistently boost morale?
  • Did the employee or group show outstanding dedication and motivation?
  • Did this employee use a unique specialization or skill(s) to accomplish a goal or make a difference on your team?
  • Has this employee or group been recognized recently? (If yes, consider recognizing another individual or group; everyone deserves Applauz!)

Feel free to share this checklist (or entire article) with your team, as they will be offering recognition to their peers as well!

Recognition Ideas

If you’re not sure what to actually say to your employees when offering praise, here are a few ideas to get you started. You can always offer Applauz Points or Badges to elevate your words of recognition.

Recognizing employees for attaining specific goals or performance metrics

  • “I’d like to recognize Carlos for delivering the Happiness Assignment a week before its due date. His hard work has helped our entire team move forward with our long-term mission faster than anticipated.”
  • “I’d like to recognize the entire sales team for surpassing their sales goals for the quarter! Their hard work is turning into tangible profits for our team and company.”

Recognizing employees for their attitude or unique skill

  • “I’d like to recognize Tom for his incredible attitude. He brings a smile to everyone on the team and boosts our spirits when we need it most during these past weeks!”
  • “I’d like to recognize Yasmine for her top-notch communication skills. She has the professionalism to handle our most difficult clients. Her way words can de-escalate even the most tense situations with grace and tact.”

Recognizing employees for their general dedication and involvement

  • “I’d like to thank Matt and Nikki for organizing and coordinating an amazing company BBQ for our entire team. We had a blast and it was the best turn out yet!”
  • “I’d like to recognize Omar for showing so much dedication to the Happiness Project. He’s been coming into work early every day to work on the planning, making this project easier to execute for the rest of us.