How to motivate others well at work


According to a Gallup study circa 70% of employees in the USA say that they have never before received neither praise nor recognition in the workplace. Furthermore the study states that

  • 89% of managers think that money matters have caused ex-employees to leave their company
  • Whereas in fact only 12% of ex-employees said that money played a crucial part in their decision to leave a company.

There obviously is a perception gap between managers and employees considering motivating factors including recognition.

I invite you to use the information in this article to actively support in closing this perception gap in your organization.

Categories of recognition
Recognition can be applied in three different dimensions:

Praisal: Considers the performance of an employee or colleague. Focus is the contribution of the employee at the workplace over a longer period of time e.g. an entire calendar year.

Gratitude: Similar to praisal, gratitude focuses on a specific effort of an employee e.g. as part of a project.

Appreciation: Focuses on a person itself, e.g. certain behavior or attitude aspects.


This categorization illustrates that there are numerous ways to recognize others and thereby motivating them.

Languages of appreciation
Gary Chapman and Paul White have put the various forms of appreciation in five categories, so that they can be clearly separated. These five appreciation “languages” are:

  • Words of affirmation (verbally)
  • Tangible gifts (something you can grasp and present to others)
  • Acts of service (simply helping others)
  • Quality time (spending valuable time with somebody)
  • Appropriate physical touch (e.g. backslapping, to be applied carefully in our working culture)


The above mentioned authors have created a survey using 30 different questions to find out what preferences somebody has considering a prioritization/ranking of the five different appreciation styles.

If you want to dig a little deeper into their research, you may want to go here:

Practical tips to motivate others
Applying recognition can be a very powerful leadership tool, in fact, it is almost for free and does not require much effort at all. If you consider a few recommendations, as listed below, you may turn into a successful motivator, recognizing your employees or peers and thereby developing into an important influencer that is highly acknowledged by others:

  • Apply approving feedback shortly after a specific performance or an effort that a person has made. Do not wait too long.
  • Your feedback needs to be comprehensible. It has to be easy for your counterpart to understand what the feedback refers to.
  • Face-to-face trumps telephone trumps email/web chat. The more intimate the situation the stronger usually the feedback is perceived.
  • If you want to recognize a specific person, start by finding out what kind of appreciation language your counterpart prefers (see above). To make somebody a tangible present is in vain if this person does not value gifts at all. Your recognition act could even be counter-productive! When it comes to appreciation it is more important what the receiver values than what the sender prefers.

And a final tip on how to successfully get along with difficult characters: Start your dialogue with mentioning what you have lately observed that you liked about your counterpart. You may receive a surprised reaction and enter into a much more fruitful and appreciative interaction…

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