Apply generational and appropriate types of appreciation for enhanced collaboration

The words "great job" with an exclamation point

As a successful management mantra the following has been found to be very useful.

  • Catch your employees doing something right at least once a week and thank them for it Thank them for something specific.
  • Get your employees the resources they need from their perspective and don’t micromanage.
  • Give your employees a chance to shine in leadership and achievement.

This commentary is going to focus on how to show appreciation from the first of the three points from above.

As you contemplate the first bullet and how often to express appreciation, this may seem daunting to thank someone once a week for something specific.  However, if you make a point to keep track to touch base weekly and to look for things to thank others, you may be surprised how this habit becomes more natural with time. With large spans asking your team to help you and to thank others helps instill a more collaborative environment.


The languages of appreciation


There are five languages of appreciation. These stem from the words you say, the way you interact, gifts, time, and appropriate touch. Let’s look at these a little closer.

The words you say

Do you appreciate words of appreciation, a verbal acknowledgment of a job well done. Many others do too. This is not just an “atta boy”. Although that can be nice too. Rather this is for something specific. It might be for something related to helping someone else, excellent research, a great report, extra effort to help a specific customer or a host of other actions.

You may recognize the person one on one or publicly in some way such as a group meeting or a major event.

Depending on the situation and the employee this could take a few different twists. The key is to know what matters most to the employee and to look for opportunities to catch the employee doing things right and recognize the employee with words of appreciation.

The way you interact 

Think of what might be a way to show appreciation by some small gesture.  For example, offering to help that person with a project they are working on. Offering advice or sharing a contact could help. Getting someone a cup of coffee, tea, or a soda is a small gesture, but when offered genuinely as an act of kindness this can mean a lot.

Be authentic and show that you care.

Offer to take a break with someone to talk and let them share something that is concerning them. Order lunch or a snack to break up a longer task or in appreciation of serving on a team. Showing empathy and that you care makes a real difference. Think of how you interact with others and what you might do to show appreciation to them that may demonstrate that you really care.


Some people react very positively to gifts. For some a small but thoughtful gift goes a long way. Something from the employer with the employer logo or name is an example. When returning from a trip and providing something of interest to the other person can be very significant.

A thoughtful gift recognizing outside interests consistent with what would be appreciated by the other party can mean a lot.

To others a monetary gift of recognition may be more appreciated. The gift might allow the employee to have a nice dinner, buy something for their hobby, or some similar interest. It is important to cater the gift to what matters to the employee.


Collaboration is key. Recognizing collaboration as a team demonstrates the importance of collaboration over individual efforts and strengthens the team concept. Group activities such as an outing, a picnic, doing a community service project are examples.

Another example is to have one on one time. Making a point to have time with each employee shows that you care when you demonstrate that you are genuinely interested..

Explore small talk authenticity with each other. Take the time to get to know the employee personally.

Develop a connection. Asking for their ideas on what is working, what is not, and what can you can do together going forward shows you value their insights.

Another element of time is time off. It might be something as small as an hour off early from work. It might expand to a day off for all the hard work done upon the completion of a project. Explore what your options are and what you can do as well as what matters most to that employee in terms of time. Think creatively of what is most important to that employee.

Appropriate touch

From the Yale course on Happiness, one of the five elements to promote happiness is appropriate touch. In our virtual environments today, this can be a lot harder. This can be a virtual high five, fist bump, or pat on the back.

Knowing and carrying out appropriate touch can make a real difference.

Appropriate touch when you are physically together must be appropriate for your work culture and be safe for everyone involved, but do not underestimate the power of appropriate touch. You can learn more about appreciation and obtain other ideas from the Appreciation at Work website.


Generational differences


The number of millennials and generation Z workers has now surpassed the baby boomers and is now over half of the workforce. Wanting to keep your workforce in this era of the great resignation makes understanding generational differences more important than ever. We are all shaped by our experience.

The key is to understand how various generations and individuals prefer to be appreciated.

For example, research reveals that about 40% of millennials believe that baby boomers are to guarded in their communication and about the same percentage of baby boomers believe that millennials are to brash and opinionated.

It turns out whether generation Z, a millennial, generation X, or a baby boomer words of appreciation and quality time with the boss were found to be most important. However, given the emphasis on collaboration educationally and with other experiences, younger employees preferred collaborative time efforts and recognition. Generation X and baby boomers were fine with individual and group recognition. Younger employees also appreciated hanging out together during and after work to be a great use of time.


What should you do


As a leader it is important to know your employees. Bond with them. Make an effort to authentically connect with them. Ask them what matters most to them. Explore their interests. Yes, there are generational and cultural differences as a whole, but importantly, what the individual needs and wants and how you approach each person individually is what matters most.

Take the time. Understand. Respond appropriately to appreciate others the way they want to be appreciated.

This will improve morale, productivity, and retention. To gain some additional insights and to differentiate how often based on generational differences check out this article.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]