Cause for Celebration

Yesterday was my dear friend Amy’s birthday. Since her special day is on the first, she has appropriated all of September as her birthday month, celebrating accordingly. Personally, I’ve never been a big birthday person, and acknowledging my own has become less and less important to me the older I’ve gotten. But Amy’s attitude of celebration has gotten me thinking about how we celebrate (or don’t) in the workplace. I’m not talking about balloons or cake or gifts – though those are all good things – but rather about acknowledgment, recognition, and appreciation for achievements in the (virtual or physical) office.

The idea of positive reinforcement isn’t new, but why do so many people in the workplace forget its power? A Harvard Business Review article titled "Why Do So Many Managers Avoid Giving Praise?" says, “…many managers feel that it’s their job to tell their direct reports bad news and correct them when they make a mistake, but that taking the time to provide positive feedback is optional.”  It goes on to say, “[Leaders] vastly underestimate the power and necessity of positive reinforcement. Conversely, they greatly overestimate the value and benefit of negative or corrective feedback. In all, they misjudge the impact negative feedback has on how they are perceived by their colleagues, bosses, and direct reports. Giving only negative feedback diminishes a leader’s effectiveness in the eyes of others and does not have the effect they believe it has.”

Work-related celebrations can occur at multiple levels – organizational, team, or individual – and be large or small. In the nonprofit world they may also include partners, clients, donors, volunteers, board members, and other stakeholder groups. The best celebrations take into account what a person or group values and is designed accordingly.

Is your office culture one of celebration? Do you acknowledge key milestones as well as the achievement of an end goal? Do you make it a practice to recognize good work? Businessman Don Rheem says, “Creating a culture of celebration helps meet employees’ needs for inclusion, collaboration, and appreciation” and offers up great suggestions for building a celebratory culture.

What are you doing to celebrate accomplishments and happenings at the individual, team, and organizational level? The following resources may provide food for thought:

{And if you happen to run into my friend Amy in the month of September, make sure to wish her a Happy Birthday!}

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