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When was the last time you demonstrated appreciation to your team? In the hustle and bustle of the modern workplace, it’s easy to overlook one of the most powerful tools at our disposal: appreciation. Recent findings from  The Workforce Institute at UKG shed light on just how significant the impact of managers is on our mental health and overall well-being. Surprisingly,  71% of employees felt their managers influenced their well-being as much as doctors, therapists, and even spouses. With such a profound effect, it’s time for leaders to recognise the pivotal role they play in supporting their teams.

As an experienced facilitator of leadership development for decades, I was recently struck by a course evaluation from a group of leaders. Despite their struggles with giving feedback, these leaders unanimously agreed the most insightful part of the programme had been the value of appreciation conversations. In a world where a simple “thanks” often suffices, they found immense value in engaging in meaningful discussions centered around recognition and appreciation.

But what exactly is it about appreciation that makes it so powerful?

The Science Behind Appreciation

Research conducted by Harvard scholars highlights the deep impact of appreciation on both givers and receivers. For givers, expressing gratitude leads to greater self-control and a reduction in workplace negativity, such as rudeness and gossip. Meanwhile, receivers benefit from a sense of validation and acknowledgment of their inherent worth as individuals.

Recognising the Difference

While recognition and appreciation are often used interchangeably, there’s a crucial distinction between the two. Recognition is based on performance and is conditional, focusing on past achievements. In contrast, appreciation is about acknowledging a person’s intrinsic value, irrespective of their accomplishments. For leaders aiming to cultivate engaged, loyal, and high-performing teams, understanding this difference is essential.

Cultivating a Culture of Appreciation

So, where do we begin in fostering a workplace culture centered around appreciation?

Lead by Example: Leaders must embody the values they wish to instill in their teams. By personally expressing gratitude and appreciation, leaders set the tone for a culture of acknowledgment and respect.

Facilitate Meaningful Interactions: Encourage employees to interact with beneficiaries of their work, whether it be clients, customers, or individuals impacted by their efforts. These interactions serve as powerful reminders of the significance of their contributions.

Create Space for Gratitude: Provide avenues for employees to express appreciation, whether through dedicated Slack channels, appreciation walls, or gratitude check-ins during meetings. By making room for gratitude, managers foster an environment where acknowledgment becomes the norm.

The Power of the 5 Conversations

Taking appreciation to the next level, the “5 Conversations” framework offers a powerful method for managers to demonstrate value and interest in their team members’ contributions. Through genuine listening and probing questions, managers deepen their connections and reinforce a culture of appreciation.


I have to say that the single most important lesson I learned in 25 years talking every single day to people was that there’s a common denominator in our human experience….The common denominator that I found in every single interview is we want to be validated. We want to be understood.

Oprah Winfrey

What Oprah was talking about is appreciation. And when we show appreciation to our colleagues, customers, managers, and partners, we’re more likely to build trust and connection. When was the last time you demonstrated appreciation to your team?


The Workforce Institute at UKG 

Why Employees Need Both Recognition and Appreciation (

Building a Better Workplace Starts with Saying “Thanks” (