FROM THE COMMS CUPBOARD, Episode #14

The benefits of acknowledging people

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A pat on the back can mean the world to somebody. From the sticky gloom of their cupboard, John and Shaun discuss being kind in the workplace.

Simple acknowledgment of a job well done can go a long way towards improving communication in the workplace. And how many Take That songs did Shaun mention?

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Episode transcript

Shaun: The intro is “From a dimly lit cupboard somewhere in England”. And now I’m going to place this sour kitten … Two people chat about … communications 😹 Sometimes they chat about other things. Welcome to From the Comms Cupboard.

John: Is it sour?

Shaun: yeah, it is quite sour.

John: God, I didn’t think they were.

Shaun: Is it supposed to be watermelon?

John: Yeah 🍉

Shaun: Cor blimey. I’ve never known a sour watermelon like this before. It’s usually smooth, clean and water fresh. It’s quite nice, though. The flavour is quite good.

John: I gave you that as acknowledgement for a job well done on the podcast.

Shaun: Well, thank you very much. D’ya know, it feels lovely to be acknowledged for the work that I do. The work that we do. I think we do very good work.

John: We are public broadcasters.

Shaun: Public broadcasters. So … acknowledgement. Acknowledging people – it’s such a nice thing to do. You know, we’ve come off the back, a few weeks ago, it was obviously Mental Health Awareness Week, and I believe …

John: In the UK, I believe.

Shaun: Right, I thought is was a global one. And the theme was kindness. I think that can apply everywhere, but in particular at work.

John: Yeah, really important at work.

Shaun: Really, really important. It’s one of the things that I think … I’m gonna hold my hand up here and admit that I can be a little needy at work. And in all the years that I’ve worked in an office (thank god I don’t do that anymore), but in all those years, I worked so hard. I was actually one of those people that had personal integrity – professional integrity – that I’m gonna do the best I can possibly do. But I also had a needy side.

John: You like to get a bit of thanks.

Shaun: All I need is just a little pat on the back: “Shaun, great job you did there.” That would have kept me going for the next six weeks 😁

John: Six months!

Shaun: Maybe not that long. I might have needed another hit!

John: You might have needed a hug.

Shaun: The sad thing is, I hardly ever got that. And I could see it in other people – really hardworking people – not getting that acknowledgement. I would find myself going over to those people and saying, “You know what, you did a great job on that. I don’t care what anyone else says, you nailed it.” And I would do that myself, but I think it’s someone else’s job as well as your colleagues. It’s someone else’s job.

John: It’s everybody else’s job, isn’t it?

Shaun: But particularly from the people who are managing you.

John: Yeah, yeah, I think it is. Recognition by leaders. There’s a big part of engagement and people feeling wanted in their job. If you’re not communicating that, or the excuse that it’s not really how I am or how I do things, then I think you need to change.

Shaun: Yeah, but happiness comes into it too.

John: Especially now more than ever, people are working really hard to get organisations back on the road. Back in business.

Shaun: Back for good. I was watching Take That on YouTube, sorry, and I may pepper the rest of this conversation with a few more Take That titles. I’m not so sure 😋 but I’ll try.

John: OK, let’s get the Take That bingo card out.

Shaun: Well, it only takes a minute 🤩 So I was looking at this happiness study. It’s the 2020 Happiness Study, and it found that wealth is not what matters to most people. Social support and freedom were the top two. Social support and freedom, and trust was number three. And I think this means we should focus on what’s really important in our work lives, which, if you translate those things, is care and communication. Communication is what we talk about all the time.

John: It’s the point of the podcast.

Shaun: And I do think there is a duty of people who communicate well at work – in your workplace – to care for others. But let them know: “I have always known you’ve worked hard.” Don’t tell them that at their retirement party. Tell them every single week!

John: Yep, that would be really lovely, wouldn’t it? People take a little bit more time to thank people, and not just generically: “Oh, thank you to everybody.” But thank you to that person specifically because they’ve done a good job.

Shaun: Isn’t it like the old joke, where the ghost is looking over his own funeral, and he says, “I didn’t think anyone cared”. And everyone came out with all these eulogies at the funeral. But by the time you’re dead, it’s too late 💀 It doesn’t matter. Say them when you’re alive. Say them every week at work. You can tell I’m quite passionate.

John: You are quite passionate about this. I think it would be really interesting to do an experiment with a workplace and just start randomly thanking people all over the place, which I think I probably do already, but absolutely going out of your way to be super visibly thankful.

Shaun: A bit like small acts of kindness. Like when Oprah Winfrey paid for the person behind her in the supermarket.

John: Yeah, pass it on.

Shaun: Pass it forward?

John: Pay it forward! Absolutely. So you be nice to five people that you work with and maybe they will be nice to five people they work with. Soon, everyone’s nice for everyone.

Shaun: Yeah and then you never know who might rule the world 🥳

John: Absolutely. I think as well, why don’t we encourage other people to thank people. Isn’t that a nice way to do a leadership blog? Say, “I really want to thank these five people who have done this great job this week. Why don’t you comment below with five people you think have done a great job this week.

Shaun: What a great idea. I, as you know, make podcasts; I produce podcasts, and I produce internal communications podcasts. That is a great idea because often we talk … we fill that content with important business stuff and what people are doing. But thanking and acknowledging people you may never have heard of, on that podcast, from that leader … What a great piece of communication!

John: And they finish every podcast in this case with the five people to thank, or the 10 people I’m gonna thank this week for doing a great job. It would encourage other people to then be more vocal about who they tell that leader has done a good job that week, because it’s always really nice if your team’s the one that gets the mention as well. So there’d be this sort of potential competitiveness among the middle managers who want to have people highlighted. They don’t want to be the only one without a team member who’s thanks.

Shaun: Oh no. I think a part of the freedom thing that people want, from the happiness study, they want a sense of freedom. Now, to me, that’s acknowledging people as well. It’s acknowledging that I trust that person. I know it sounds counterproductive. I trust that person to get on with their job. I trust my leader to give me clarity about why I’m doing this. Why am I coming to work at nine o’clock? Oh, this is the reason why. Because my boss told me this is the reason. This is what people want: that freedom and trust, a combination of them all. But I also think they want honesty. So I think you can tell when someone pats you on the back and they really didn’t mean it. They’re just doing it because …

John: In ‘Management 101’, it’s one of the tick boxes ☑️ And I guess when I was saying are we defeating the object of this by having something that happens every month or every week – the podcast or someone thanking them – I think it really has to be quite personal, doesn’t it? They can’t just read a list of five names and say thank you, because they really need to understand why they’re thanking somebody.

Shaun: It could come across as disingenuous.

John: Yeah. We want a bit of passion with our thanks.

Shaun: Yeah.

John: Or alternatively, just a little pat on the back. You know, a “well done” now and then. Maybe a nice coffee.

Shaun: Yeah. Say, “Thank you to everybody. You’re all losing your job. But it’s the weekend!”

John: Always end on a positive.

😆

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