Is Employee Appreciation Day Different From Any Other Day?

It has been over 25-years ago since Dr. Bob Nelson originated Employee Appreciation Day on the first Friday in March. 

There was a two-fold purpose for originating this day. 

  1. Bob says it was to help managers better value their employees.
  2. It also coincided with the release of his book, then titled, 1,001 Ways to Reward Employees

So, even with that brief history of the founding of Employee Appreciation Day, has it really changed things in the workplace? Is Employee Appreciation Day different from any other day of the work week?

The Actual Answer Is, “No!”

The first Friday in March should not differ from any other Friday, or any of the other remaining days of the week you work on, as far as feeling appreciated. 

Will this March Friday be a special day in your life?  

  • Something neat, novel, and surprising could make it a special day.
  • If care, advanced planning, and they summoned some creativity, they might deliver something to your home, especially since so many of us are working remotely.
  • You peeked already, and the first email you received in your Friday inbox was expressing appreciation from your manager. And there were even some messages from your colleagues. 

Do you think your manager will stop to express their appreciation for you and your contributions?  

  • Look out for a phone, or video conference call from your boss (right?), where you’ll hear sincere and specific words of appreciation for your personal attributes and qualities that help make the team or department hum and run so well.
  • And you’re bound to be recognized by your manager for all the positive contributions you make. They’ll likely recognize you for the amazing work you’ve been doing lately, too.
  • Is that a video or voice mail message you’ve received, that you keep replaying just to hear the kind words of gratitude?  

How will the organization you work for stop and acknowledge you?

  • The CEO or President has prepared a special message to share and has organized a virtual town hall meeting to say thank you to everyone, especially in these difficult situations of working virtually.
  • They have sent a small token of appreciation to everyone and even though they couldn’t make the delivery for Friday, they have shared what is coming and everyone applauded.
  • Guess what? A specially designed ecard by the marketing team is up on your recognition program, and everyone is sending them out to one another with personalized messages of appreciation. 

The Harsh Reality of Employee Appreciation Day 

If none of the above things happen on this Friday, then they likely don’t occur on any other day of the year, either. 

Renowned behavioral economist, Dan Ariely, of Duke University has said following some of his research that, 

“Ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort before their eyes. The good news is that adding motivation doesn’t seem to be so difficult. The bad news is that eliminating motivation seems to be incredibly easy, and if we don’t think about it carefully, we might overdo it.”

Ariely administered some behavioral economic research experiments with university students. From the results he showed that the less appreciated people feel their work is, the more money they expect to be paid to do that work task again.

Ariely further says, “When we think about labor, we usually think about motivation and payment as the same thing, but the reality is that we should probably add all kinds of things to it: meaning, creation, challenges, ownership, identity, pride, etc.,”  

What happens to us when we don’t feel appreciated?  

Can we find meaning in our work independent of the praise of others? Are we as creative as we usually are, if not appreciated? How do we deal with challenges in the workplace when no one acknowledges you’re even there? 

It is amazing what consistent and authentic recognition and appreciation can do for people, especially when delivered by their immediate supervisor or manager. 

It is also incredibly clear what a lack of appreciation and recognition can do to people. Several studies have shown that a lack of recognition has significant repercussions on mental and physical health.  

According to Jean-Pierre Brun, Management professor at the Université Laval, workers who experience a lack of recognition at work are 1.4 times more likely to be absent and feel stressed, and 30% more likely to develop heart disease. 

A 2008 study conducted in four different companies also found that a lack of recognition consistently ranks among the top four risk factors associated with distress.

I have defined Real Recognition™ as any thought, word, or deed towards making someone feel appreciated for who they are and recognized for what they do. Make this practice a habit and put such behaviors into action.

Let’s make Employee Appreciation Day a time to commit to appreciating and recognizing employees every single day you are at work.

Whenever you observe or hear about positive behaviors, witness the personal effort people put forth, or the significant contributions your peers make, and anyone who goes above and beyond their normal work duties, please stop and take the time to express your appreciation to them.

That commitment will make the first Friday in March when you read this, a very different day from any other.

Recognition Reflection: What will you do to reach out to one peer or to your manager and express your appreciation to them?

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