I was at Target with my daughter the other day and as we were checking out she casually mentioned that this was the first time in a long time that she didn’t have gift cards to pay with. It’s true, the girl usually has more gift cards in her wallet than most post-shower brides-to-be.
In addition to being a gift card tycoon, Carley is a daycare teacher. She’s in charge of the infant room, which means she spends the day being screamed at, drooled on, bitten, and up to her neck in spit up and dirty diapers. She and her co-teacher are quite literally responsible for the daily survival of the babies in their care. In exchange for this work she receives a bi-weekly paycheck that only barely covers her cost of living. Barely.
So, it might surprise you to know that, most days, she genuinely loves her job, her co-workers, and her workplace. She’s really happy doing what she does. She has a special gift when it comes to children, there’s no doubt that this is the work she was created to do. But, I am convinced the other reason she’s so happy with her job is because the center where she works has created a culture of appreciation and affirmation. Her boss, other members of management, and parents of the children in her care all go out of their way to let her know how much they value and appreciate her. Hence, the abundance of gift cards.
For the past couple years, I have worked as a freelance voicetracker, voiceover talent, and fundraising host, almost entirely from my dungeon Broadcast Quality Home Studio. Don’t get me wrong, remote work definitely has its perks. You can’t beat the commute or the dress code. But it has its drawbacks, too. I miss being part of a team. I miss daily interactions with coworkers. And, I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I miss being told from time to time that I did a good job. I am seriously thirsty for some affirmation.
With so many of us working remotely these days, I’m guessing I’m not the only one.
It’s not just remote workers, either. I’ve worked at and with some stations that were truly excellent at making their people feel valued and needed. But in my experience those have been the exception, not the rule.
So, what gives? We’re professional communicators, after all. Why aren’t we doing a better job communicating our appreciation for the great work our teammates are doing?
I suspect there are a number of reasons. Here are a few:
- You’re just too busy. You’ve got a station to run, budget to meet, music to program, donors to thank, a “concerned listener’s” email to reply to, and tech issues to tackle. All of these things are right up in your face demanding all of your immediate attention. So, telling your afternoon host that you loved his break about his kid’s first day of kindergarten is just not top of mind. To be honest, you didn’t even hear that break.
I get that, I really do. But, it’s going to be a lot more time-consuming finding a new afternoon host when the one you have leaves because he’s burned out. Feeling undervalued and unappreciated is a HUGE contributor to burn out.
- You don’t want to inflate an already oversized ego. It takes a certain kind of confidence for someone to believe that she has something to say which thousands of people want to hear. Often, but not always, this confidence comes across as cockiness. And, you certainly don’t want to encourage that. However, it is usually the most egotistical people who are, at their core, the most insecure. You might find that by offering the people on your team sincere, constructive affirmation, the result is humility rather than hubris.
- You’re just not comfortable with giving compliments. Maybe praising people just isn’t your thing. You didn’t get a lot of praise as a kid and you’ve never really figured out how to comfortably express your thanks and appreciation to people. Maybe your own insecurity is what holds you back. You think, who am I to tell HER that she really knows how to connect with listeners when they call? If passing out praise feels weird for you, you are definitely not alone. But, for the sake of your team, your industry, and your friends and family, it’s a skill you should learn. Read on.
As I mentioned earlier, over the course of my career I’ve seen workplace appreciation done really well, and then really not so well. Here are some things that work, and some things that don’t.
- DO offer praise that is specific, and unique to the person. An email to everyone on the team saying, “great job on the remote today” is good, but not good enough. A text to the guy who stayed late to run the board saying you notice and appreciate his dedication is clearly more personal and effective.
- DON’T make appreciation a corporate initiative. Remember when the workplace trend was handing out “caught you cards”? Managers, directors, etc. were each given a stack of cards to hand out to team members when they were “caught in the act” of doing something good. It had something to do with a fish market in Portland or something. Or, did I just dream that part? The intentions were good, but it turned giving praise into another “target” to hit. Honestly, who wants to be praised because their boss has a compliment quota? If you need to set some personal goals in order to make employee appreciation a priority, that’s cool. Still, keep things as organic and natural as possible.
- DON’T only praise when you need to soften the blow of criticism. Look, I appreciate the compliment-criticism-compliment technique of delivering constructive criticism. But if the only time you say, “I really like how you ____” is before a “but” that’s a problem. Before long, all anyone will hear when you praise them is, “brace yourself, the smackdown is a-comin’.”
- DON’T leave it all in the consultant’s hands. Good coaches and consultants are incredibly skilled at elevating and affirming people. If your team is working with one of these “talent whisperers”, awesome. And, they still need to hear some good things from you, too.
- Finally, DO compliment your peers, and your boss, and everyone else! While a lot of this has been written with managers and directors in mind, this is something we should ALL do. You don’t need a special title or position or 20 years of experience to be qualified to compliment someone. If the midday host at your station said something that made you smile, tell her. If your boss handled a situation in a creative way, tell him. If you were listening to another station and you heard something that connected with your heart, call or message them to let them know. If you are part of any of the myriad of facebook groups for people in our industry, use that platform to share the love. We have some incredible colleagues who are already doing this so well (I’m looking at you, Lisa Williams). Now, imagine how we could transform our workplaces and our industry if each one of us: managers, directors, admin pros, air talent, promotions peeps, and weirdo voicetrackers working out of padded rooms in our basements, all did our part to create a culture of appreciation and affirmation.
Tami has worked in radio for over 30 years. These days she serves as a freelance radio host, hosting middays at Worship 24/7, CFR in Bowling Green, KY, and weekends at Hope 107.9 in Eugene, OR. She’s also an experienced voiceover talent, fundraising host, and she dabbles in podcasting. Learn more at www.tamirumfelt.com.