Usually, any mental or emotional stress first manifests through the bodily symptoms — lethargy, unwillingness to do daily chores, not enjoying oneself in what one does, poor performance, becoming easily distracted etc. And all these can be detected in an organizational set up easily than anywhere else.
No, I am not giving you a course in mental health but I am going to make my point in the next couple of lines.
Well, the reasons for such physical symptoms can be manifold and can range from issues with organization’s culture, environment, leadership and even money. But what if the reason is something that is small yet big enough (like the moon) to overshadow the efforts (of the Sun) of a person (like in a solar eclipse)?
This is the story of my friend — a hard-working person, apolitical, awesome mentor to co-workers and team members, thorough professional, overachiever and even empathetic. But all his achievements got overshadowed by the fact that he was not his boss’s favorite, which he felt explicitly in all his meetings and discussions with him. Despite proven competence and skills (a fact that his peers appreciated him for), the discussions with his boss hinged on “how much he could do better” than what he was doing better already, the issues that the boss saw in him and how he was not faring on “the unsaid expectations” of the boss.
I lent a ear to my friend’s dilemma, and advised him that if he feels that he is adding value to his work and the organization and that even external parties have commended him for a job well done, he should not really be bothered about what someone feels about it as long as he has proof of what he has achieved.
Despite this, every day of work is a struggle for him — a struggle to gain respect and more so, recognition — recognition that his boss chooses to deliberately withhold.
Now, I told him that he could move on, change jobs or talk to the boss directly about what he felt, and even went to the extent of telling him that his boss is just pushing him to be even more exceptional than what he is now, but I could see that discontent had set in him — especially about himself, his strengths and especially about how he felt about his work.
When you reach a point where you feel “You’ve done it all”, your peers believe “You’ve done it all”, and even your family thinks “You’ve done it all”, but get turned down by the only validating authority that you feel there is, it feels like being at the bottom of the pit.
Although this discussion could also go to the level where one would like to discuss “who is the right validating authority?”, for the purposes of this article, I will stick to the fact that there is nothing wrong with considering your boss as one, as a boss is on your head due to some reason.
But one can become a source of one’s own approval. However, looking at my friend, it made me think that external validation is more important than internal one. I mean one could be at peace with one’s efforts, but if such efforts are not recognized on a platform, one would rather live in a silo.
But coming back to the point of recognition — I know it is a big deal, but what can one do when your boss doesn’t notice what you do. According to a study by OGO (O Great One!), 82% of employees don’t feel that their supervisors recognize them enough for their contributions and this lack of recognition takes a toll on morale, productivity, and, ultimately, profitability. More so, according to Tinypulse’s “The Broken Bridges of the Workplace2017 Employee Engagement Report”, a paltry one in four employees feel valued at work — 16% drop from last year — because managers are falling behind in their recognition efforts.
Is positive reinforcement the key? What can leaders do to inculcate positive reinforcement?
Here are the things that I feel managers can do:
Observe the efforts. It is crucial for leaders to appreciate qualities or efforts that employees make. Highlight what the person has done and show it as an example to others. This will not only boost the morale of the person, but also uplift the morale of other employees too.
Appreciate personally and publicly. Personal recognition and public recognition go a long way. Recognition during a team discussion or a meeting can not only boost confidence but can also improve employee productivity.
Set expectations. Setting expectations professionally is a way that sets the tone for a successful working relation. If leaders are able to clearly articulate the expectations, the chances of gaps between what the employee has to deliver on and on what the leader perceives gets diminished.
Provide feedback. While positive reinforcement is a great way to motivate employees, regular feedback channels should be established between the leaders and the employees. With the millennial population increasing in organizations, feedback channels can serve as a facilitator to employee and organizational development both.