Showing Appreciation When You Manage a Large Team: How to Be Effective, Personal and Avoid Burnout
Each workplace setting and group of employees is unique, which is why the Appreciation at Work materials are designed to provide practical, easy to use resources to help leaders and organizations build healthy workplace cultures. But sometimes there are challenges based on the structure of the industry, limited budgets, or the size of a work group that need special attention. Overseeing large teams is one of those unique circumstances.
One example comes from Jack, a manager at a senior care living center, asked: “I ‘get’ the concept of communicating appreciation to my team and the need to make it personal and individualized. But I have team members who report to me that I rarely see. They work a different shift or on the weekends and while we communicate through email, texts, and occasional calls, I really don’t have much actual interaction with them. How do I communicate appreciation to them?”
Similarly, Nancy, a nursing manager at a hospital said, “I oversee 50-70 nurses at our facility. I don’t see how I can make this work with that many direct reports.” I agreed. Trying to authentically communicate appreciation to that many team members (and in the ways that are important to each of them) is not feasible.
So, what do you do when you supervise a large group of employees? There is no single magic bullet, but there are a number of strategies that can help.
First, prioritize. Remember that the research that found 79% of employees who leave voluntarily cite a lack of appreciation as a primary reason they quit. Take that to heart. If you have key team members who you don’t want to lose, you better make sure they feel valued. If you don’t, they will eventually be looking for another place to work. Find out how your stars like to be shown appreciation and make a point to begin doing so. Next, if you know some of your colleagues are worn out or discouraged, it would be wise to do something to encourage them. Find out their primary language of appreciation, and what actions they value, and reach out to them. (Appreciation and encouragement are largely the same actions but with a different time focus. Appreciation is directed toward the past – what they’ve done that you value. Encouragement is focused on the present and future – coming along side and encouraging them to persevere and keep going through the challenges they are encountering.)
A second strategy is to delegate. Supervisors and managers cannot provide all the encouragement and appreciation needed. This is especially true when there are large numbers of team members. Try to find a lead team member who understands and values showing appreciation to others and bring them alongside you to share the responsibility in modeling appreciation and looking out for those who need encouragement. Better yet, form a small group of team members who want to become leaders in appreciation and determine specific team members they will focus on.
Thirdly, take bite-size steps. Don’t try to eat the whole hog at once; take one bite at a time over time. Don’t attempt to set up a big, overarching program or draw up a spreadsheet where you (and even your appreciation partners) try to reach everyone on the team in the next month. Take one step at a time. Do a little here, a little there. As you do, you will become aware of all the daily opportunities to communicate a little appreciation to someone (even if it isn’t in their primary appreciation language), and you will become more adept at doing so effectively. Also, when your colleagues see that you are trying, they often become a bit more gracious and even willing to take a step themselves in showing appreciation to their coworkers.
Finally, train your team to communicate appreciation to one another. The most effective way to change your workplace culture is to involve everyone. Teach them about the 5 languages of appreciation, talk them through one of our Appreciation at Work training processes, and have each one take the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory. Then share the results across the team. Appreciation works best when it is communicated by both supervisors and colleagues! Are there challenges in effectively showing individual appreciation when you work with a large group? Absolutely. But don’t let the challenge prevent you from doing what you can. As I repeatedly emphasize: Start somewhere with someone. You will get a better result than doing nothing at all.
Categories 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, Appreciation, Managing By Appreciation, Peer Recognition, Vibrant Workplace, Workplace Culture