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20 Effective Ways to Appreciate and Motivate Employees

David has over 15 years of supervisory experience and has extensive knowledge of how to handle personnel issues across many areas.

Happy employees feel appreciated and motivated.

Happy employees feel appreciated and motivated.

Employee Appreciation and Motivation

The reason why this article covers both the appreciation and motivation of employees is that those go hand-in-hand; if you appreciate what your employees do, they can feel motivated to do their job. However, your employees won't feel motivated if you don't appreciate the work that they do accomplish.

This is something I have always had a hard time doing as a boss. How much appreciation do you show? If you show too much, it could come across as fake. If you show too little, your staff won't think much of you. When that happens, their motivation could be affected in various ways.

In This Article

  • 20 Ways to Appreciate and Motivate Your Employees
  • 10 Ways to Under-Appreciate and Demotivate Your Employees

20 Ways to Appreciate and Motivate Your Employees

  1. Get to know them. Ask questions about their family life, what they do for fun, etc. Don't do this as a way to spy on them, but as a way to learn about them. Your staff will feel like you appreciate them as an individual instead of just as someone there to do a job.
  2. Praise them for their work. Telling your staff "good job" when they do something well goes a long way. They will feel like you are acknowledging them for their work. That will encourage them to do more good work since they will feel appreciated.
  3. Send them a note. This is similar to praising them for their work, but in this case, it can be a handwritten note. It doesn't have to be long, but something short and handwritten shows you took the effort to make it personal. Some example cards are available at the top of this article. Print them, cut them apart, and give some out!
  4. Recognize the effort they put in. Even those who don't do a great job can still be acknowledged for the time and effort they put into a task. So let them know you appreciate the effort they put into a project.
  5. Promote the employee. One of the best ways to show you appreciate an employee is by promoting them. They will feel like you truly recognize their talents and will feel appreciated by you as their supervisor. Only do this if you feel they are up to the task.
  6. Ask for their opinion. There is a good chance your employees know the ins and outs of their job better than you do. So when you need to change something, ask for their opinion. Your people will be happy you value their opinion.
  7. Give them something. Buy donuts for the office, close down shop for an hour, or give out some gift certificates. This isn't a bribe, but it's a way to show you appreciate what they do and want to give them a reward for it. It's even better if it comes out of your own pocket since they know it wasn't a company thing.
  8. Put it in writing. When an employee has done especially well, putting something in writing can be best. You can even class it up by using gold parchment paper, having a plaque made, etc. This can be something an employee would show off.
  9. Say please and thank you. Employees know they have to follow the orders given by their boss, but they will feel better following those orders if you say "please" and "thank you." More than likely, they will do what you want right away instead of purposely pushing it off.
  10. Set sustainable goals for them. Lets say you have this huge project that needs to be done. Just don't go to your staff and say you have this huge project that has to be done. Give them small goals to reach. Once they complete one goal, move on to the next. That will push them on to the final goal.
  11. Tell them why something is done. If something new comes up, when explaining it to your staff, explain why it needs to be done. Change doesn't come easy to anyone, but explaining why something needs to change will help your employees understand why it's being done, and they will attempt to learn the new process.
  12. Always talk about the positive of something. Your staff will feed off your emotions. If you show you don't like something, they won't like that same thing and totally reject it. So even if you don't like something, try to make positive statements about it in front of your staff. If they see that you are positive about it, they will try to be as well.
  13. Acknowledge their ideas. Even if your employees come up with bad ideas, acknowledge them and discuss their idea with them. Don't just shoot them down. Explain why the idea may not work and thank them for the suggestion. That will encourage them to keep coming up with ideas. Eventually, they will hit the mark and come up with a good one.
  14. Give them a special project. For the most part, people get bored doing the same thing day in and day out. Giving them a special job, even one that you do yourself, will motivate them to do more.
  15. Discipline your employees. One wouldn't think that discipline is a form of motivation. Well, it will be if it's done right. Sometimes employees need to be disciplined when they make severe mistakes. There are times they think they can get away with something, but discipline can be a way to get them back in line.
  16. Send them to training or conferences. Even though it seems like work, sending an employee to a work conference can be good motivation. Depending on the location, it can be a paid vacation for the employee. They come back refreshed and probably learned something new.
  17. Trust your employees. An employee can work a lot better if you just leave them alone. If you show that you trust them with their job duties, they will feel motivated to do more and branch out beyond what is expected from them.
  18. Let them decorate. If they have an office or work area of their own, let them decorate it (within reason). Staff who are surrounded by things they like may work better because they will feel more at home.
  19. Give them a break. You may have someone who is having an off day. They could be in a bad mood, didn't sleep well, etc. So they may not work as effectively. Allow them that one off day instead of riding them. That will motivate them to do a better job the following day.
  20. Give them a raise. Money isn't a long-term motivator, but it can help. In cases like this, providing small raises over a long period of time will have a bigger effect than a large raise all at once.
Motivating your employees can lift their morale—and maybe even lift them to higher places in your organization.

Motivating your employees can lift their morale—and maybe even lift them to higher places in your organization.

Personal Experiences in Appreciation

I have a few personal experiences of feeling appreciated in the workplace:

  • I worked at a call center with hundreds of employees. The head of that call center sent me a handwritten note thanking me for the good job I was doing.
  • At the end of one of my evaluations, the boss above my supervisor left a note thanking me for my hard work.
  • The person in charge of my section gave me money to buy pizza for all of the staff in my office. He didn't want anyone to know it came from him.
  • I received one of my raises a year early due to how pleased my supervisor was with my work.

Personal Experiences in Motivation

I have a few personal experiences with feeling motivated in the workplace:

  • I gave an idea to my boss, who brought it up in a meeting with her supervisors. They took my idea and expanded it into something that affected my entire department in a positive way.
  • In my job, I'm known as someone tech-savvy. As time went on, other departments would come to me to ask me to do something technical-related for them.
  • I went on a job interview for a promotion. They didn't know me, and I was still quite young. They took a chance with me, which made me feel motivated to do good work.
  • My new boss didn't know me that well. She stated she needed to get a report done, and I offered to do it for her. She was hesitant due to my inexperience but trusted me anyways. The report was done well, and my boss began trusting me with more important assignments after that.
Print out these cards, write a small note, and give them to your employees so that they will feel appreciated and motivated.

Print out these cards, write a small note, and give them to your employees so that they will feel appreciated and motivated.

10 Ways to Underappreciate and Demotivate Your Employees

  1. Not engaging your employees. One thing that puts off employees more is supervisors who don't talk to their staff. Employees notice if you don't say "good morning" and "good night."
  2. Not showing concern for their needs. Your employees usually consider their job the 3rd or 4th priority in their life. Their family, friends, etc., mean a lot more to them than the job. So when they have issues outside of work, they expect you to understand. Nothing makes them feel more underappreciated than a supervisor failing to be concerned about their needs.
  3. Dismissing them. Your staff will feel like you won't care if you dismiss them completely. If you don't look at them when they talk, if you don't listen to their feedback, etc., they will feel isolated. This is a quick way to lose their respect and lose the employee.
  4. Praising them too much. Too much praise can be a bad thing. Telling someone they are doing good just by showing up means little. If a stellar employee sees you pay the same compliment to an underperforming employee, they will feel like the praise is not genuine.
  5. Telling them what they do wrong but never what they are doing right. It's important you give your staff feedback, but there are times you need to tell them what good they are doing, even if they are bad in so many other areas. They won't improve if you just tell them the bad things all of the time.
  6. Talking down to an employee in a public setting. Disciplining employees around other employees is something you should not do. They will be humiliated in front of their co-workers and feel demotivated.
  7. Showing favoritism. It's impossible to dispute the fact that supervisors have their favorite employees, but openly showing that will demotivate your other employees. You have to learn to put your personal feelings aside. If you don't, then your other employees won't feel motivated to do their job.
  8. Showing that you don't care or don't like your job. If your staff sees that you don't like your job, they won't like their job. Your mood affects how they work. A bad mood for you will mean a bad mood for your staff.
  9. Cut out the generic mission statements. One of my previous jobs had a mission statement that we tell to all employees. The problem is that everyone has heard it by now and has trouble taking it seriously because of that. Of course, it should be followed, but how motivated would you feel being told the same motto over and over again?
  10. Don't make a fake gesture. In my previous job, I received an e-mail from the head of my department wishing me a happy birthday. It's an automated, generic e-mail everyone receives each year. Everyone also laughs about it because we know it's not a genuine e-mail. If you want to show you wish an employee a happy birthday, tell them in person.

Personal Experience in Underappreciation and Demotivation

Even though I was a boss myself at the time, I still liked to be thanked for the work I did. However, my boss at the time rarely ever thanked me or said I did a good job. Sure, it was on my evaluations, but that was just a once-a-year thing. I felt underappreciated throughout the year because of that.

On another occasion, I was looking to transfer from my current job to a different job in the same department for personal reasons. Once my boss heard of this, she basically cut off all training I was due to receive. That further pushed me away from that position and I didn't feel motivated to do good work while I was there.

By appreciation, we make excellence in others our own property.

— Voltaire

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2015 David Livermore


Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on June 08, 2015:

So important to motivate. Very helpful article.

Barb Johnson from Alaska's Kenai Peninsula on May 01, 2015:

I agree with FlourishAnyway. This should be included in every company's manual of policies and procedures. But I won't hold my breath. Excellent ideas!

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 18, 2015:

This should be required reading for bosses. For two years I worked under someone who told the entire staff that he did not want to know who we were as people. He was a corporate lawyer. I ended up quitting.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on March 06, 2015:

Some effective and practical ideas here.