Reimagining Appreciation - A Key Lever for Agile Work Cultures

Reimagining Appreciation - A Key Lever for Agile Work Cultures
Photo by Dakota Corbin / Unsplash

As we navigate the maze of the 21st century workplace, one element that consistently emerges as essential is appreciation. Too often trapped in the rigid structures of annual performance reviews or a symbolic employee of the month award, appreciation is due for a radical transformation.

The rising tide of agile methodologies in organizations, such as Scrum, Kanban, SAFe, Nexus, Scrum@Scale, is creating a new context for feedback and recognition. Agile practices inherently facilitate regular feedback, prompting us to rethink the role of recognition as a significant influence on workplace culture.

The Everyday Appreciation: Boosting Self-Esteem

Central to our professional identity is a deep-seated desire for validation. This yearning for recognition can subtly permeate everyday professional interactions, influencing our self-image and perceptions of value in the workplace.

Research dating back to the 1980s reveals the profound impact of recognition on our work experience. In addition to improving job satisfaction and performance, recognition can influence factors as personal as sleep quality and as critical as the decision to stay or leave a job.

Appreciation in Disguise

Interestingly, appreciation often wears the disguise of routine work activities. Let's take a closer look at some of them:

  • Feedback Sessions: Often underestimated (pun intended), feedback is one of the most direct forms of appreciation. But it's a double-edged sword. While positive feedback can improve performance, comparisons can hinder it. The key is to focus feedback on tasks, suggest actionable improvements, and align it with established, task-specific goals.

  • Career Decisions: Providing opportunities for growth and advancement is a profound expression of appreciation that signals a belief in an employee's potential.

  • Compensation Discussions: Fair and transparent compensation discussions can demonstrate appreciation and reinforce that the organization values the employee's contribution.

  • Performance Evaluations: Conducting fair and balanced reviews underscores the organization's recognition of an individual's efforts and accomplishments.

  • Delegation of Tasks: Entrusting employees with important tasks demonstrates the organization's appreciation of their skills and competencies.

  • Daily Interactions: Seemingly minor day-to-day interactions can convey appreciation, such as acknowledging a job well done or lending a sympathetic ear when needed.

Now that we've unraveled some everyday examples of "appreciation in disguise," let's explore how we can actively cultivate this culture in our workplaces.

The four levers for fostering appreciation

Based on the findings of Häfner and Hofmann (2023)[1], we can identify four levers that play a critical role in fostering a culture of appreciation:

  1. Workplace Conditions: Creating an optimal work environment, from appropriate tools to comfortable noise levels, is a powerful signal of appreciation.

  2. Work Tasks: Assigning tasks that challenge and match an employee's skills cultivates a sense of being valued and improves job satisfaction.

  3. Social Interactions: Encouraging respectful team interactions and supportive leadership fosters a culture of value.

  4. Organizational Conditions: Providing fair compensation, encouraging participation, and promoting non-discrimination help create an appreciative work environment.

In an agile work culture, these levers take on even greater importance.

Agility and appreciation: A Powerful Duo

Agile methodologies have expanded the canvas for appreciation in the workplace. With feedback and recognition built into the fabric of agile events, every interaction becomes a potential recognition opportunity, making appreciation not just a desirable trait, but an essential feature of agile culture.

Towards a culture of appreciation

Appreciation, it seems, is the unsung hero of workplace culture. Embedded in agile practices, it can transform the workplace experience by fostering a sense of belonging, improving performance, and increasing job satisfaction.

As we move toward more agile and inclusive work cultures, let's seize the opportunity to reinvigorate appreciation. Let's move away from conventional, infrequent, and ritualistic recognition to cultivate a continuous, authentic, and vibrant culture of appreciation. Let's adopt a practice of giving genuine, constructive feedback, delegating with trust, recognizing effort, and cultivating an environment of respect.

It's time to embrace appreciation in all its forms, subtle or explicit, and recognize its power to infuse our workplaces with motivation and drive. After all, both our self-esteem and our work effectiveness depend on it.

The opportunity is here. The need is clear. Let's cultivate the culture of appreciation our workplaces deserve.

Additional Literature

  • Kluger, A. N. & DeNisi, A. (1996). The effects of feedback interventions on performance: A historical review, a meta-analysis, and a preliminary feedback intervention theory. Psychological Bulletin, 119, 254-284.
  • Osatuke, K., Leiter, M., Belton, L., Dyrenforth, S. & Ramsel, D. (2013). Civility, respect and engagement at the workplace (CREW): A national organization development program at the department of veterans affairs Journal of Management Policies and Practices, 1, 25-34.
  • Semmer, N. K., Tschan, F., Jacobshagen, N., Beehr, T. A., Elfering, A., Kälin, W. & Meier, L. L. (2019). Stress as offense to self: a promising approach comes of age. Occupational Health Science, 3, 205-238.
  • Wikoff, M. B., Anderson, D. C. & Crowell, C. R. (1983). Behavior management in a factory setting. Increasing work efficiency. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 4, 97-128.
  • Häfner, A. (2023) Wertschätzung - ein Lernfeld für Organisationen. Wirtschaftspsychologie aktuell 2|2023 26 - 31

  1. Häfner, A. & Hofmann, S. (2023). Zuhören für Führungskräfte: Wie Sie durch gutes Zuhören wirkungsvoller führen können. Berlin: Springer ↩︎