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Validating Employees’ Self-Worth: What Managers Need to Know

The desire for approval and validation is a central theme of human existence. Under the right leadership, this desire can become a motivating factor for high-performance and consistent growth. On the other hand, when employees don’t feel like valued members of a team, they may become disengaged and eventually seek employment elsewhere. Even when the pressure is on, the most effective leaders are good at validating employees’ self-worth while inspiring them to do their best work.

There are numerous ways for managers to validate their employees. Effective rewards and recognition programs, regular performance reviews, bonuses and public appreciation during a team lunch are all great places to start. Let’s take a closer look at some ways managers can show their employees that they are valued contributors to the organization.

Recognize and reward employees.

If an employee has gone above and beyond, give recognition where recognition is due. Sometimes a simple thank you will suffice; however, managers can take just one extra step to reinforce desired behaviors. Instead of the generic “thank you,” offer the employee more specific feedback by identifying one recognition-worthy action they took and why it matters.

For instance, saying “Thanks so much for reviewing that proposal for me. You’ve always got great insights and our clients and I appreciate them,” is meaningful feedback that motivates the employee to further develop the skills praised by the manager, while still providing validation in the form of real appreciation.

According to a Gallup only one in three U.S. workers said they were recognized or praised for doing something good in the past week. Employees who weren’t recognized or rewarded were twice as likely to quit their job in the next year. Regular recognition is a crucial factor in employee retention that managers can’t afford to overlook.

Focus on strengths over weaknesses.

It can be tempting to point out what an employee is doing wrong instead of praising them for what they are doing right. However, positive reinforcement is always more effective than negative.

Instead of focusing on the negative, focus on recognizing employees’ strengths. In fact, another Gallup study found that managers who help employees further develop through their strengths and positive characteristics are more than twice as likely to engage those they manage. In other words, building your employees up rather than tearing them down encourages and empowers them to do their best work.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give honest, constructive feedback, but be careful about how often you do so, and be sure it’s balanced with plenty of praise on other occasions. You never want your employees to gripe that they only hear about their performance when something goes wrong.

Spend time with employees.

Employees who meet with their managers on a regular basis are up to three times more engaged than employees who don’t get the same kind of quality time with their leaders. How else can a manager expect to deliver regular and meaningful feedback if they don’t put in the time? More and more leaders are discovering that annual or quarterly reviews don’t provide the kind of meaningful feedback employees expect and desire from their leaders. Some organizations are ditching traditional reviews and opting instead for weekly or monthly check-ins instead.

These check-ins don’t have to be in-office meetings. Maybe you take a small group of top performers from your team to lunch to discuss the progress they’ve made toward their goals. You could even invite one team member to have coffee before heading to the office for the day. Maybe you just stop by an employee’s desk to get some insight on a current project and offer feedback. Never underestimate the validation power in taking a moment out of your busy schedule to talk to members of your team.

Involve employees in decision-making processes.

Allowing your employees to provide input on important business decisions can prove an invaluable form of validation. When appropriate, managers should use the skills and expertise of their team members to make decisions that matter to the company as a whole. There may be nothing more powerful than letting employees know their voices are being heard and that their suggestions can truly be implemented.

Ultimately, people often attach much of their self-worth to their job performance, and managers account for 70% of variance in employee engagement scores. To help employees develop and maintain the confidence they need to be engaged and do their best work, managers need to validate their skills and talent, and show appreciation with regular feedback and recognition.

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