How Appreciation Builds Resiliency
The U.S. government and all branches of the armed forces have identified the development of resiliency as a key goal to strengthen our military personnel over the long term. As a result, for the past 10 years both research and resources have been focused on determining how to make service members more able to “bounce back” after experiencing stressful and/or traumatic events during their service.
Much research and emphasis has been focused on identifying individual characteristics, coping skills, and environmental factors that can help servicemen and women:
a) become more prepared to manage the stressful events experienced in life;
b) strengthen their ability to cope successfully with demanding life circumstances, including deployment and home-based service;
c) improve their ability to recover from difficult experiences more quickly and more fully, being better able to continue to serve our country.
One of the most consistent factors found in promoting resilience has been social support. When military personnel are connected relationally to those with whom they serve, along with friends and family, their ability to cope with stressful and traumatic situations consistently is significantly greater than their colleagues who do not have an active social support system in their lives.
While supportive relationships with family and friends are obviously important, having positive, affirming relationships with those with whom you work is also critical. Consider that even when not deployed, military servicemen and women spend 70-80% of their waking hours with their colleagues. When deployed the percentage is often 90% and higher.
There is a significant difference, however, between traditional performance awards in the military and communicating authentic appreciation. In fact, employee recognition activities are often viewed cynically due to their lack of genuineness (or when the individual is asked to write their own letter of commendation)!
Fortunately, there is hope. An individual’s and a unit’s ability to constructively deal with stressful life experiences in the course of military service can be improved by facilitating healthy, authentic relationships with their colleagues, supervisors, and subordinates. We have identified three foundational principles regarding appreciation in the workplace:
1. Not everyone feels appreciated (or encouraged) in the same ways. (In fact, the most common language of appreciation is only preferred by 40% of individuals; so there are a variety of ways people desire to be encouraged.)
2. Team members want to be valued and appreciated both by their supervisors and their colleagues. A “top down” approach will only be minimally effective. The most supportive relationships in day-to-day work life is provided by one’s peers.
3. If the appreciation communicated is not viewed as authentic, you are “dead in the water”. In fact, when supervisors (or co-workers) communicate appreciation that is viewed as inauthentic, trust in the relationship is immediately undermined.
We have developed resources to help supervisors and team members learn how to encourage one another and build stronger social ties between colleagues. Our structured Appreciation At Work training materials have had positive results within multiple branches of the military. And we have developed a version of our Motivating By Appreciation Inventory specifically for military use, addressing the issues around fraternization and gift-giving unique to military relationships.
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Categories 5 Languages of Appreciation, 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, Appreciation, Authenticity, Leadership, MBA Inventory