N Touch
Tuesday 12 November 2019
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Commentary

Making people feel good

DEBBIE JACOB

I WANT TO teach a class on how to write congratulatory e-mails. It would be a class for managers, principals, CEOs – and even employees who want to learn how to write effective e-mails to boost egos and productivity.

Everyone would learn how to craft a sentiment that elevates workers to a whole new level of productivity by making employees feel good about themselves and the jobs they do. It would teach leaders how to avoid empty platitudes – those trite and overworked statements that masquerade as appreciation but really say nothing worthwhile. Employees could send praiseworthy e-mails to each other recognising their colleagues’ accomplishments.

Each e-mail would be personalised and crafted especially for the recipient. This would mean that anyone sending an e-mail can’t begin with stock statements like “I would like to thank…” And the sentence can’t end with “a job well done.”

Leaders would have to use their imaginations and know their employees, and employees would need to challenge themselves to get to know their colleagues better. Everyone would need to learn what employees value and what resonates with employees as praise.

I believe that an employee who takes a basket-weaving class should be praised for finding a creative way to de-stress, and the person who always seems to organise the barbecue tickets for fundraising events deserves praise too.

What about the person who organises a lunchtime book club? I would write an e-mail that says, “Dear Jane, I heard you designed a little getaway for employees at lunch in the form of a book club. What a wonderful idea for the employees of this company to meet and discuss ideas. This fosters a love for reading that helps us to develop as individuals – not just employees. You are an inspiration to all of us.”

E-mails would need to answer the question “why.”

Consider this: “Dear Bill, I would like to thank you for being the first person to work on many days. I know your commute is long, but you always arrive with a cheerful disposition in spite of the traffic you manage to beat. You show passion from the moment you arrive, and you help to set the mood for the day.”

As you might notice, the new praiseworthy e-mail has to be thoughtful and much longer. When employees read them, they will not only appreciate the praise, but learn invaluable lessons about productivity.

The drama teacher wouldn’t get the usual, “Great job on that Christmas play.” Instead, the principal would write, “I can’t help thinking about that Christmas play last night because I saw a different side of so many students. James, who is always so quiet, took centre stage, and that is a major accomplishment on your part…”

Sadly, many e-mails, which are meant to be praiseworthy in the workplace, are actually worse than saying nothing at all because the praise feels disingenuous. In other words, it feels fake or condescending. Worse yet, many people only receive e-mails because they’ve done something wrong.

Everyone deserves to get praiseworthy e-mails. No one should be left out. Most employers fall in the trap of singling out certain individuals for praise because some people are good at pushing themselves into the limelight. Often, it’s just a matter of a leader being too lazy or unwilling to think outside of the box to recognise praiseworthy events.

If you, as a leader, can’t find praise for some employees, then you need to be more observant and find out more about that employee so that you can come up with something to praise.

Maybe it is this: “Dear Jan, You are one of the quietest people in this company. In meetings, you never speak much, but I have noticed how you are the person who takes the initiative to follow up on matters discussed in the meeting. You meet your deadlines, and never require any prompting. I have noticed your contributions, and I would like to thank you for being the committed worker that you are.”

True leaders should realise that their most important job is to motivate people in the workplace so that individuals can feel good about themselves and excited about aspiring for higher goals. All employees should realise the benefits of sending each other well-timed, meaningful, congratulatory e-mails that build closer ties. Everyone in the workplace should eagerly anticipate special e-mails. It takes such little effort to make people feel good about themselves and coming to work. I just don’t understand why so few people realise this.

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