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The dirty little secret about giving thanks

appreciation burnout gratitude healthcare senior living thanksgiving Nov 16, 2020

And the secret is… gift cards don’t make your team members feel appreciated!

I know, it’s shocking. And while gift cards are still considered “nice,” they just don’t convey meaningful appreciation for 95% of your team members. 95%!!!

And I’ll tell you why.

We’ve conducted focus groups with tens of thousands of family members, residents, and staff from organizations across the country, and we hear a definitive trend around how “leadership could do better.” One dietary aide said it best, “Don’t worry about the money that you pay me. Worry about how you treat me.

How you talk to me. How you listen to me. How you respect me. How you appreciate me.

For the workforce of senior living, appreciation is sustenance. Like air and water are for the physical body, appreciation is the sustenance for the soul, and in this case, it helps keep that physical body showing up shift after shift, day after day. If you need some expert confirmation of appreciation’s importance, Gallup says genuine appreciation needs to be given every seven days!

The sad truth is, many of the staff we meet with, and please keep in mind that these staff members work for high performingorganizations, feel underappreciated. And I don’t just mean during the holidays or during a pandemic. They feel underappreciated all the time! 

So, this is a great time to remind you that appreciation is funny. Not funny in a ha ha way, but tricky. Appreciation is felt in different ways by different people, and you might not be showing your team members appreciation in the right way, despite your wonderful intentions. The dirty little secret about giving thanks is, it’s not so easy to do it right!

Thank goodness our friend, Dr. Paul White, who we have written about before, (check out the guest blog he wrote for us), cowrote “The 5 languages of Appreciation in the Workplace” with Gary Chapman and has shed a lot of light on the subject of appreciation. The book focuses on the five languages of appreciation. They are:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Acts of Service
  • Tangible Gifts
  • Personal Touch

According to “The 5 languages of Appreciation in the Workplace,” 45% of people feel appreciation through Words of Affirmation, giving people praise and saying thank you, while the remaining 55% will not feel appreciated by hearing a simple word of “thanks”. 

30% of people feel appreciation through Quality Time. This could mean carving out special one-on-one time with an individual to have coffee together or maybe a more COVID-friendly idea, a “masked” stroll and chat around campus.

20% of people feel appreciated through Acts of Service. One of our clients decided the best way to show their CNAs appreciation was to give them a helping hand! Five administrative staff and two support staff became CNAs via The Administrative Certified Nursing Aide (ACNA), in addition to their regular roles, so they could better assist CNAs by answering call bells when needed. How cool is that? Another client held an employee appreciation car wash where all the top leaders washed the team members’ cars. 

And here is the real shocker. Only 5% of people feel appreciated by receiving Tangible Gifts. So while people may gladly accept a bonus or gift card around the holidays, don’t be fooled into thinking they feel appreciated by the gesture. They might appreciate the extra financial support, but that doesn’t always translate into feeling appreciated or valued for the work they do. 

Physical Touch actually isn’t included in this equation because the authors decided not to make “touch” a focus in the workplace, but I still like to mention it because physical touch is so important to our residents. A pat on the shoulder, or a gentle touch of the hand, can really go a long way in showing your residents that they are appreciated (and loved!). Just something to keep in mind. 

Give (Impactful and Meaningful) Thanks!

As you plan your holiday events and employee appreciation programs, try to consider how people feel appreciated and what you can do differently this year as a leader to really try to reach as many people as possible to show your appreciation—now and into the new year. The best part, you’ll be modeling the way as a leader and supporting a culture where your team members will show their appreciation for others as well.    

You may be thinking, how do I know what type of appreciation each person responds best to? The answer is, talk to them and try each kind out! You can never go wrong by giving special attention to each member of your team in order to get to know them better. And trying to appreciate them using various techniques will only make them see how genuinely dedicated you are to their happiness and fulfillment. And that is truly giving thanks.

While we are at it, thank you for all the wonderful work you do to give our seniors the very best life. It’s one of our favorite parts of our job, to tell you that we appreciate all you do. Because we sincerely do! 


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