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By Michele Hellebuyck, MHA Policy and Programs Manager

As employees, receiving reward and recognition when we perform well makes us feel acknowledged and appreciated. We are also more likely to continue to perform well if our performance results in a positive outcome. This is because recognition and rewards are powerful motivators. They are associated with many of the positive emotions that we want to feel: satisfied, confident, and valuable. For employers there are many reasons for making reward and recognition a part of their workplace culture:

Positive emotions lead to positive attitudes and perceptions. Employers that take time to recognize and reward their employees, influence their employees’ attitudes and perceptions towards the workplace. Positive attitudes or perceptions can lead to greater levels of attachment. Consider your hobbies, social groups, or safe spaces. These are things, people, and places that nurture positive emotions, and therefore attachment. In the workplace, greater attachment means that employees are likely to remain with their organizations. For employers, this means reduction in costs associated with high turnover rates and loss of productivity.

It costs nothing to say, “great job”. Verbal recognition for a job well done can be in and of itself a reward. Not all employers can afford to offer rewards in the form of a pay raise or paid time off. Luckily, giving positive feedback to employees is cost-free and has shown to improve performance and increase productivity. Again, it is about increasing positive emotions in the workplace, which doesn’t require a grand gesture. Consider the emotions felt when someone holds the door open for you or pays you a compliment. These are words or acts of affirmation that carry a lot of value because they feel personal and genuine. They are social rewards that, like financial ones, motivate employees to work harder.

Unhappy employees breed unhealthy work environments. A study of 17,000 employees showed that employees in unhealthy workplaces were less likely to receive supervisorial support as well as reward and recognition. These were also workplaces where employees experienced higher levels of stress and lower levels of engagement. It only takes one unhappy employee to negatively impact workplace culture. Employees that are unhappy can alienate their co-workers and make it difficult for them to perform well. It is important employers to note that a sense of community and collaboration is good for business. Positive relationships between employees and their colleagues leads to an expansion of resources by allowing for the sharing of information and skills. These relationships are also a form of support for employees, which allows them to overcome work challenges.

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