The science of ‘appreciation’ – how to boost employee moral


Our core needs

If you read my previous blog on ‘How to leverage progress to boost employee motivation’ you might remember that there are 5 domains that our brains treat on the same plane as survival – here’s a quick recap on these domains:

Much like our physiological needs such as water, food and shelter, there are also basic needs of the brain that if not consistently met will quickly influence a negative state, heightening allostatic load and causing fear based emotions with a range of physical ramifications. Stress is a manifestation of fear, which in turn, suppresses immune markers and changes the way an employee thinks. This means, if leaders gain clarity on what these 5 domains and know how to manage them, they will more consistently ‘light up’ the parts of their brain responsible for motivation, insight and willingness to do more than expected.

The essence of ‘status’

All human beings have specific needs, not just desires but actual needs, which they are seeking to fulfill on a daily basis. One of these is significance or a sense of status; the need to feel important or valued in who they are and in what they do.

The brain recognises ‘status’ as an intrinsic reward. Anytime employees feel their ‘status’ increasing, so will their levels of serotonin – a chemical released when a sense of pride emerges or when they perceive that others, their leaders perhaps, like and respect them. In turn, this flood of serotonin raises accountability and responsibility to the company and leaders that support them.

As Simon Sinek brilliantly put it – “there is a chemical incentive inside every one of us”

When an employee feels their sense of status being devalued, they instinctively heighten ‘limbic system’ arousal. In fact, just the act of an employee having a conversation with his or her manager can heighten limbic arousal, because someone with a perceived higher sense of importance can easily activate this instinctive response. If we want our employees thinking with the full cognitive resources of their pre frontal cortex, increasing their productivity, collaboration, creativity and cohesion, we need to instill an awareness of these 5 drivers of performance. To best communicate with their teams, leaders need to avoid arousing the limbic system responsible for defensive, unproductive behaviours with cultures of poor moral.

“ There are no “disengaged people”. There are people in environments that become disengaged. PS. you control the environment” – L.David Marquet

Other ways status is relinquished:

  • Important information that is communicated poorly i.e. divestitures being informed by a letter or no follow up meeting
  • Dismissing thoughts and ideas from staff on improving or supporting projects and goals
  • ‘Unsafe’ environments; the feeling people get when the perception of their workplace is one of low trust, competition and uncertain job security

Our central emotional need is to feel valued. When staff and employees feel appreciated, acknowledged or recognized the ROI is work with high positive energy filled with optimism, challenge and engagement.

I’m curious, are any of your employees on the brink of going AWOL because they’re overworked and under appreciated?

Foster The Right Environment

The science of ‘appreciation’ – how to boost employee moral


Model Breakdown:

In any given moment an employee is deciding what to focus on, what something means and what action to take based on the meaning they have given to their perceptions. This is the basis to their thought and emotion and creates either a positive or negative emotional climate.
This is important because how an employee feels personally and what meaning they give to events at work influences;

- How immersed and focused they are in their tasks and activities

- Their drive to actually work hard

– How engaged they are in team projects.

Learning how to drive a ‘toward’ response within the 5 brain domains is crucial to enhancing a positive workplace climate and improve the levels of creativeness, cohesiveness, commitment and productivity within your team.

Benjamin Young

Speaker | Coach | Trainer | at Job Performance Coaching & Training

I help executives, managers & team leaders to influence human behaviour and in essence get more out of individuals and teams in terms of execution and results, sustainably. I help both leaders and employees improve excellence, energy & productivity in the workplace. I do this by teaching three specific skill sets: 1. Dealing with having too much to do 2. Staying cool under pressure 3. Influencing Behaviour -(Presenteeism, Absenteeism, Underperforming staff, Constructive Feedback)