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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The merits of appreciation vs. compensation

By Dick Hirsch

If you’ve been in the workplace for awhile, can you remember when you received your first attaboy, by whom it was issued and the circumstances surrounding the event? Furthermore, can you cite those same conditions related to your most recent attaboy?

If the term attaboy is unfamiliar to you, let me express my regret before I define the term.

An attaboy is a compliment from your boss, recognition for a job well done, often asserted in the presence of co-workers, but sometimes given privately in a thoughtful moment during a meeting with the superior. Although not present in many vocabularies, the term attaboy was developed in the early 20th century as an accolade for exemplary work performance. That was before gender was as much of a concern as it is today. The female version is attagirl, but to keep this simple I’ll stick with the original.

It is possible you may never have done anything that merited an attaboy, but I doubt that. It’s more likely that your boss or bosses over the years have always figured that any special recognition or compliment was unnecessary when you were getting a paycheck. That is not true, according to those who probe the psyches of workers at every level. Quite the opposite is the opinion of the experts; compensation apparently is not as important as many persons believe.

An entire brigade of psychologists and other consultants keep busy by investigating the attitudes and workplace behavior patterns of people who work for a living. Sometimes they are hired by state or federal agencies but usually they are retained by the owners and managers of large corporations who are eager to sample the opinions of the workforce.

Yes, the years go by and new practitioners are involved conducting sessions with new interviewees. The times may be changing but the results are always the same. Many people hate their jobs. The percentages vary, but it is always a sizable number; sometimes it is over a third of those interviewed and in some cases it is more than half.

The recent study I noticed reported the results of interviews conducted over three years, summarized as follows: Americans now feel worse about their jobs and work environments than ever before. People of all ages, and across all income levels, are unhappy with their supervisors, apathetic about their organizations and detached from what they do. Most studies cite a direct link between job satisfaction and the success of the company. It makes sense that happy workers will do a better job and that will be reflected in the quality of their work and the bottom line. Recognition from managers in various forms, one of which would be attaboys, is considered to be a major factor in successful operations.

A core of dependable, experienced workers is necessary in every business; retention of workers is vital to success. Yet many companies are constantly faced with hiring and training new people as experienced people depart. One study found that 79 percent of employees who quit their jobs cited “lack of appreciation” as the primary reason for leaving. Those workers would be members of the group to whom recognition was more important than a pay raise.

I had a conversation last year with the CEO of a Buffalo business who calls most of his 200 plus employees by name and makes it his business to walk through the plant and stop to ask about their families. He makes sure they understand that he appreciates their service, that the company values their work. Some experts describe that procedure of regularly visiting all the production areas as MBWA---Management by Walking Around.

“Most companies will say that the customers come first,” he often says. “In our company, the customers come second; the stakeholders (his term for the employees) come first. It’s their company, too.”

Contrast that with the experience related to me years ago by a salesman, hired by his company to prospect for new business. After a few months he discovered a growing organization that gave him an initial order and soon came to rely on him and his company as the major supplier of the commodity they manufactured. That firm became one his company’s biggest customers, yet the owners were never able to compliment the salesman on that achievement.

That oversight bothered him until the day he quit but he later realized it had a positive impact on his career. Years later, in a management position, he was quick to praise the accomplishments of his co-workers. He knew the value of the attaboy.



At 8:02 AM, Blogger David said...

Good job! Attaboy....from one eternally waiting for an 'attaboy', dm

At 7:13 AM, Blogger Brian and Nancy said...

I really liked this. I get them all the time, mostly privatly, but a lot of times it is in front of people.


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