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Improving staff morale through authentic appreciation

Paul White (Psychologist based at Appreciation at Work, Wichita, Kansas, USA)

Development and Learning in Organizations

ISSN: 1477-7282

Article publication date: 29 July 2014




This paper aims to address the increasingly low levels of staff morale found in workplaces and the challenges managers have. Employees tend to view employee recognition programs cynically and the reasons for these reactions are explained, along with the negative results which follow. The concept of authentic appreciation is discussed, and the core components necessary for employees to feel truly valued and practical steps that can be taken are outlined.


The paper reports lessons learned through the author’s experiences of applying the concepts to workplaces over the past several years.


Job satisfaction and employee engagement are declining in spite of the proliferation of employee recognition programs. Employees perceive much employee recognition activity as being disingenuous, leading to apathy and sarcasm. There are structural issues that need to be corrected for employee recognition to be perceived as authentic – making recognition less generic, more individualized and communicated regularly in the manner that is valued by the recipients.

Practical implications

Traditional approaches to employee recognition (awards and rewards) need to be re-evaluated. Continuing these activities may actually increase the negativity within a work environment. Learning what each individual employee values and then communicating appreciation to them in ways that are perceived as authentic is critical to having a positive result.


The paper challenges the current (and growing) trend of impersonal employee recognition programs and examines the factors that contribute to recognition being perceived as inauthentic. The author then provides an alternative approach and methodology that facilitates the ability to communicate authentic appreciation.


White, P. (2014), "Improving staff morale through authentic appreciation", Development and Learning in Organizations, Vol. 28 No. 5, pp. 17-20.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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