Up, Down and Sideways: The Mystery of 'Appreciation'

Geoff Smith Portrait

BY Geoff Smith


At EllisDon, we suck at showing appreciation. We know that, because in our employee engagement surveys, that’s what we consistently get told. So every year we talk about it, and try to do better – and every year we get the same message.

Actually I think we have improved – I can see people working harder at this kind of positive communication – and every year our ‘appreciation’ mark is still lousy.

Then, at Christmas, I got an email from an ED employee I barely know thanking me for ‘striving to build a great company’ and ending with these words: I love working for & with the great people that are EllisDon! By far, this meant more to me than any appreciation or commendation I might ever get from our Board. Made my whole day.

And then I started thinking admiringly about my dentist, Ian Weir. Honest. At Ian’s office, everyone has fun and there’s a lot of goofing around, even while they are busy drilling and scraping. But every single person there treats every other person with respect and appreciation. ‘Please’ and ‘thanks very much’. ‘Is this OK?’ ‘Yes, absolutely and thanks for asking.’ Regardless of rank or status. Every time I go, it’s the same, and it is clearly sincere. It’s a very impressive workplace.

Without taking the responsibility from senior people for recognizing the great work done by the people reporting to them, I’m wondering if we haven’t been making the wrong assumption about appreciation only flowing one way.

In a company with over a thousand employees, how do we get everyone to more openly express the respect and appreciation I know they feel for ALL of the people they work with? Up, down and sideways.

Get that going, and we move to a different level of experience, thinks I.

Hey, don’t just sit there. Go thank someone. Anyone. And don’t forget to floss.