As a mediation and conflict resolution specialist, I believe that appreciation of others is a universal language that transcends professional roles. Everyone, regardless of their position, desires to be respected, listened to, and appreciated. In this article, I aim to guide you on how to express appreciation, who to appreciate, and when to do so, fostering a sense of connection and unity in our inclusive and supportive professional community.

As a mediator, I understand that parties in conflict must be willing to meet. We mediators appreciate honesty, open communication, and insights gathered from different angles. I enjoy listening to others and the participants’ willingness to listen to ideas from others when considering compromise.

When managing others in an organization, mediation skills go much further than when working with individuals in conflict. I have served as a manager at all levels, from front-line manager with 21 technical employees across three different geographic regions at one time to  1,200 employees in one organization spread across 24 other states.

To enrich your understanding, I share the following personal insights gained from my experiences at work, along with additional research coupled with Appreciation At Work with over 400,000 survey responses. These insights and findings are not just theoretical, but practical tools that can be easily applied in your professional journey, empowering you to make a positive difference in your workplace.

Appreciation – what is it?

Simply put, appreciation is recognizing someone for doing something or being something. It can be an expression of approval or gratitude. It can be a gift given to an individual, a team, or an organization. By being grateful and thanking others, there is a clear perception that the sender is sending the recipient a message of acknowledgment for something.

What is the message can vary from a simple thank you, a longer set of words of appreciation, a handwritten note, words of public recognition, acts of service (cooking a meal, for example), some form of tangible gift, or something else that has meaning for the recipient.

Appreciation can also involve spending time with an individual or team or something tangible, like giving someone additional time off. Often, a simple act of kindness, a small but meaningful gift, or an appropriate touch at the right time can be significant.

The form and type of appreciation should always be tailored to the individual and the situation.

For example, when someone is under stress, a listening moment, a coffee or lunch break, or a post-work dinner outing can be the most effective way to show appreciation. Understanding the context and the individual's needs is crucial in choosing the right form and timing of appreciation.

This contextual understanding of form and timing is also key to effective conflict resolution and management.

So when you as a manager recognize good work, a gift card may be appropriate for someone financially strapped or for whom picking up dinner on the way home with the gift card could help. In short, appreciation can take many forms, but the point is to begin by putting yourself in that person’s shoes and considering what matters most to that person or team at this time to show appreciation.

The need is there

The Appreciation at Work blog discusses lessons learned from 400,000 employees. This blog points out that the need for appreciation is more significant than ever, and the need for specific industries to show appreciation is expanded upon. The form of appreciation needs to be relevant to your employees. Whether in an office setting, person-to-person or virtual, a hybrid of person-to-person and virtual, for-profits, not-for-profits, government, schools, or other settings, the bottom line is about the same.

However, there are differences when it comes to appreciation. According to the study,

About 50% of the participants appreciate words of appreciation;

quality time is 27%, acts of service are 21%, and tangible gifts are 7%.

There are some minor shifts in various industries, but ultimately, it is essential to determine what is most needed by an individual and your team.

Who should receive appreciation?

Generally, the top 10% to 15% of top performers are recognized in any given team. What about everyone else? What do you do to appreciate the 85% to 90% who don’t get recognition in a group? How about a thank you for something that everyone has contributed to? Look for something that can be noticed. Catch people doing something right. Notice something specific and thank them for it. Everyone wants to feel valued.

How about underperformers? They may need appreciation the most. How can you help them grow and feel valued?

Can it be that underperformers never complain? They don’t gossip. Perhaps they conduct an activity outside of work that demonstrates positive qualities. Look for ways to appreciate others to create a place where people want to come to work. You want a functional workplace where everyone feels valued. This approach will give you better business results, employee engagement, and greater customer satisfaction.


Think about when to show appreciation and how it may be received by the recipient and perceived by others. The need for appreciation may be obvious, but this may not be the right time to recognize someone. If someone is deserving of appreciation but, on the other hand, has recently done something negative, now may not be the time to show that appreciation.

Send the proper signal at the right time.

For example, you may have had to admonish an employee for unacceptable behavior in the workplace. At the same time, an award came through a month before approval. Perhaps holding off on the award for a month makes more sense. You don’t want other group members to see that person receive an award after what just happened in your group.


Try to catch employees doing something right and thank them for something specific regularly (weekly if possible). Encourage others in the group to do this, too, and, when appropriate, share it with your team. Develop a culture of appreciation. Consider a chat that everyone shares.

Consider how much, when, and how to administer quality time, acts of service, and tangible gifts.

When promoting appreciation, consider the culture of your organization, team, and individual. In the end, do what you think is right. Learn from the process. Make changes as you expand your appreciation and become even better at showing appreciation in the future.

Check out these links if you need assistance or want to learn more about collaboration, conflict resolution, or enhancing additional Servant Manager skills.

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]