#212 – Integrity Idea 042: Give “Horizontal” Thanks

Integrity Ideas are specific actions a leader can consider during the Re-Align step of Integriosity®–actions that will begin to Re-Align the organization with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities.  You can find more Integrity Ideas at Integrous | Integrity Ideas (integriosity.com)

Integrity Ideas are practical actions toward implementing a bigger WHY for the organization.  We believe some are critical (and necessary) steps in the RENEW/RE-ALIGN/RE-IMAGINE/RESTORE process.  Others are just ideas to be considered if they feel like a good fit based on what leaders prayerfully discern is best for stewarding the organization toward its WHY.

“Give Horizontal Thanks” falls into the “essential” category.  Humanizing people and creating an organizational culture that prioritizes relationships, community, human dignity and flourishing is at the heart of leading with faithful integrity through business a better way toward Biblical flourishing.

INTEGRITY IDEA: Give “Horizontal” Thanks.

While faithful leaders should always give “vertical” thanks to God, “Give Horizontal Thanks” is about faithful leaders taking the time to say express their appreciation for co-workers.

While some Integrity ideas are challenging or costly to implement, “Give Horizontal Thanks” can be simple and free.  It recognizes that it is humanizing for people to be “seen”, to know that they are valued and valuable, and to know their efforts are appreciated. While it can be as simple as saying “thank you”, it is most effective when tailored to the situation and the person being appreciated.

In any form, “Give Horizontal Thanks” recognizes the Imago Dei in others and lives out the Golden Rule and the commandment to love others as God has loved you.  It reinforces a business a better way culture that prioritizes relationships, community, human dignity and flourishing. It is also an opportunity to help a person flourish by understanding their identity as a creation in God’s image as well as God’s greater purpose for their work–how their unique gifts contribute to the organization’s bigger WHY.

“Horizontal” Thanks Requires “Vertical” Understanding

For a faithful leader to “Give Horizontal Thanks” authentically and effectively, the leader must have a renewed understanding of God’s purpose for work as well as a renewed recognition of the implications of Imago Dei.

Humans were created in the image of a creative and productive God who displayed His “working nature” by creating for six days (and then resting), which means work is essential to our humanity in reflecting that nature. Being “fully human” and flourishing as humans requires having an opportunity to reflect God’s image and reveal His Kingdom in all of life, including our work.

By our nature as creations in the image of God, and in order to equip us to fulfill the Creation Mandate by stewarding creation, each person is given gifts of creativity and productivity through specific skills and physical and mental abilities.  Work is the platform God created for putting these gifts to creative and productive use to serve others for His glory.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 4:10-11)

To “Give Horizontal Thanks” in a way that humanizes a co-worker, a faithful leader must see that co-worker as a special and valuable creation in God’s image with unique gifts that can contribute to the organization’s bigger WHY.

The Importance of “Give Horizontal Thanks” in the Workplace

Jenni Catron wrote in a YouVersion Bible plan called “Becoming an Extraordinary Leader”

Leading from the heart means understanding the power of connection: knowing that one of our greatest human needs is to be known. We want to believe that we matter. And we sincerely long for those who lead us to see us as individuals: to see our unique potential and contribution, to help call it out in us, and to affirm that what we bring and who we are really matter to the greater story.

Gary Chapman, creator of the “Five Love Languages” model, has written a book on the importance of appreciation in the workplace called The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People.  In it he explains some important statistics about the importance of appreciation in the workplace:

According to research conducted by the US Department of Labor, 64% of Americans who leave their jobs say they do so because they don’t feel appreciated.

A Glassdoor survey found four out of five employees (81%) say they are “motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work.

Most managers (89%) believe employees leave for more money, while only 11% of managers believe employees leave for other reasons. . . . In reality, only 12% of employees reported leaving for more money, while 88% of employees state they leave for reasons other than money. In fact, the reasons most often cited by departing employees were more psychological in nature—including not feeling trusted or valued.

In a global study of over 200,000 employees completed by the Boston Consulting Group, the most important factor employees related to enjoying their job was that they felt appreciated.

51% of managers say they do a good job of showing recognition for a job well done. But only 17% of the employees who work for those managers say the manager shows recognition for work well done.

Chapman also makes an interesting and important distinction between “recognition” and “appreciation”.

Recognition is largely about behavior. . . .  Appreciation, conversely, focuses not only on performance but also affirms the employee’s value as a person.

He points out that many workplace efforts about appreciation are really about recognition.  We believe “recognition” falls short of “Give Horizontal Thanks”.

While “Give Horizontal Thanks” can take many forms, showing appreciation in its most simple form is free, takes little time, and meets what seems to be an important workplace need for people to flourish.

The Importance of “Give Horizontal Thanks” to Connection

If you have been following our posts, this discussion of appreciation may remind you of earlier posts focused on worker engagement.  We believe employee “engagement” is a helpful proxy for assessing whether work is perceived as a burden or as the blessing God intended.

Just as James Hunter’s faithful presence is the best tool we know for understanding what it means to love your neighbor through the culture of social structures such as organizations and businesses, Mike Stallard’s “connection culture” is the best tool we know for understanding human engagement at work in an organization.

Stallard explains that a healthy work culture is a “culture of connection” in which humans feel connected to the organization, to their work and relationally to each other.  This aligns with managing an organization in a way that prioritizes relationships, community, human dignity and flourishing–it aligns with business a better way.  According to Stallard, a healthy culture of connection exists when people have:

Vision:  When everyone in the organization is motivated by the mission, united by the values, and proud of the reputation.

Value:  When everyone in the organization understands the needs of people, appreciates their positive unique contributions, and helps them achieve their potential.

Voice:  When everyone in the organization seeks the ideas of others, shares their ideas and opinions honestly, and safeguards relational connections

“Value” and “Voice” can be seen as fruits of appreciation.   “Give Horizontal Thanks” helps create connection, which leads to a culture of engagement–a healthy culture of Shalom.

CONTINUUM: Proclamation

The Integriosity model organizes “heart change” along six Covert-Overt Continuums.  There is nothing magic about these categories, but we believe they are helpful in thinking about practical execution of a Re-Imagined Purpose, Re-Imagined Values and a Re-Imagined Culture.  The Continuums are Prayer, Proclamation, Policies, Practices, Products, People.

Each Continuum represents an area in which leaders can begin to think about, plan and institute Re-Alignment changes to the heart of the organization.

“Give Horizontal Thanks” is on the People Continuum. It is not about organizational practices or formal policies. It is about a faithful leader caring one-on-one about another person with whom they work, or an employee caring one-on-one about a co-worker.  Of course, it can be a practice encouraged organizationally, but it happens person to person.

COVERT-OVERT RATING: Highly Covert

The Integriosity model breaks the Covert-Overt Continuums into six gradations–from Highly Covert to Highly Overt–that we believe are helpful in beginning to pray and think about what is most appropriate for an organization at a particular moment in time.

Most Integrity Ideas will have one place on the scale.  Some can vary depending on how they are implemented.  “Give Horizontal Thanks” is Highly Covert (an action that would be taken by a secular company) because all leaders can and should show appreciation for their employees.

“Set Integrity Boundaries” can also be Overt (An overtly faith-based action known generally within the organization) if the leader chooses, for example, to explain the organization’s bigger WHY in Biblical terms, recognize the employee’s contribution to that WHY, and share the Biblical significance of valuing every person and treating each person with dignity and respect because they were created in the image of God with unique gifts.

STAKEHOLDERS SERVED: Employees

When we categorize faith-based actions, we also consider the stakeholders principally impacted by the action: Employees, Customers/Clients, Owners, Suppliers/Vendors, Community and Kingdom.

“Give Horizontal Thanks” principally serves employees by showing them how much they are valued and appreciated.

We sincerely long for those who lead us to . . . affirm that what we bring and who we are really matter to the greater story. (Jenni Catron)

IMPLEMENTATION

There is no magic to implementing “Give Horizontal Thanks” other than authenticity, but there are some guidelines that can help a faithful leader seeking to lead with faithful integrity toward Biblical flourishing.

The Importance of Authenticity to “Give Horizontal Thanks”

One of the greatest leaders in the Bible is David, and the leadership of David is beautifully and simply summed up in Psalm 78:72:

And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.

“Integrity of heart” in the context of “Give Horizontal Thanks” means that appreciation is being shown in order to reinforce a business a better way culture that prioritizes relationships, community, human dignity and flourishing.   It is genuinely to recognize the Imago Dei in others and lives out the Golden Rule and the commandment to love others as God has loved you.

Gary Chapman in The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace goes to great lengths to describe the “bottom-line” benefits of appreciation.  That may be true, but it can’t be the point.  It might be the hope of a faithful leader pursuing “Give Horizontal Thanks” that the organization will prosper, but it can’t be the leader’s ulterior motive for “Give Horizontal Thanks”.  That would be the wrong WHY, and WHY matters.

“Give Horizontal Thanks” can easily be pursued by a secular organization, but the WHY is likely to be motivated, either explicitly or implicitly, by the promise of a positive impact on financial results–Profit as Purpose.  Sadly, we believe it ceases to be “appreciation”.  Chapman is careful to point out that a lack of authenticity–integrity of heart–undermines appreciation efforts.  Employees will know when they are being manipulated, and manipulation is not appreciative.

A Few Guidelines for “Give Horizontal Thanks”

As a faithful leader prayerfully considers how to authentically “Give Horizontal Thanks” in ways that are most humanizing to those they work with, here are a few tips to guide the discernment process:

• Oral expressions of appreciation are more personal and meaningful than e-mail or text.

• A handwritten note is more personal and meaningful than e-mail or text.

• An in-person expression of appreciation is more meaningful than a telephone call.

• At a time when handwritten notes are a lost art, a handwritten thank you may even be more personal and meaningful than an oral expression of appreciation.

• As Chapman emphasizes, “recognition” is not the same as “appreciation”, and many workplace efforts about appreciation are really about recognition.  We believe recognition for what someone did yesterday can live in parallel with the question, “Will you be valuable to me today?”

• Money is impersonal.  As Seth Godin observed:

Money, cash money, is a blunt instrument used by organizations and individuals to short circuit much of the hierarchy of enrollment. . . . [M]oney is a story, and it’s a story that is interpreted differently by different people in different moments. When we default to a simple number, we dehumanize the transaction and fail to see what people really need and want.

Although it takes more thought and prayer, Chapman’s research has found that the language of appreciation must be individualized to be effective.  To implement “Give Horizontal Thanks” effectively, the commandment to love your neighbor as God has loved you is a better model than the Golden Rule.  God knows the needs of each human He created, which means that truly living out our Imago Dei calls us to try to get to know the needs of the “neighbors” we are loving.

Like Chapman’s five love languages, his five languages of workplace appreciation are:

• Words of affirmation.

• Quality time.

•  Acts of service.

•  Gifts (tangible)

•  Physical touch

There are some interesting observations in his research:

• For 62% of people, their primary language of appreciation in the workplace is different than their love language at home.

• Words of affirmation is the workplace appreciation language for 40% of people, followed by quality time at 30%, acts of service at 25% and gifts at 5% (physical touch was not surveyed)

• The language of appreciation must be individualized to be effective.

• A leader’s blind spot is the appreciation language least important to them, because they will fail to see its value to others.

Beyond expressing appreciation for a person through words, whether written or oral, some other ideas for “Give Horizontal Thanks” include:

• Spending time getting to know the person.  We covered this more deeply in post #149 (Integrity Idea 017: Listen to a Life).

• Taking the person (or a team) for a fun activity to celebrate a milestone.

• Giving someone a gift meaningful to them (e.g., a bottle of special wine for a wine-lover or a restaurant gift certificate for a foodie).

• Doing something to help the person.

While learning how to love each co-worker well may take time, we encourage faithful leaders to start with the most personal and authentic words of affirmation.  After all, Proverbs 18:21 tells us:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

After that, re-read post #149 (Integrity Idea 017: Listen to a Life).

PERSONAL NOTE (from PM):  I have experienced workplace appreciation in many different forms, from the blunt instrument of money to the most lavish celebrations (including a black-tie “closing dinner” in an English castle, with helicopter transportation to get there and a vintage Rolls Royce ride to get home).  But it is the personal, handwritten notes of appreciation that spoke most loudly to me.  I have saved them all digitally.

ESSENCE:  Integrity Ideas are specific actions a faithful leader can consider in leading faithfully through business a better way.

INTEGRITY IDEA: Give “Horizontal” Thanks

COVERT-OVERT CONTINUUM (six Continuums for action):  People

COVERT-OVERT RATING (several levels from Highly Covert to Highly Overt): Highly Covert

STAKEHOLDERS SERVED: Employees

Most Integrity Ideas are practical actions toward implementing a bigger WHY for the organization.  While faithful leaders should always give “vertical” thanks to God, “Give Horizontal Thanks” is about faithful leaders taking the time to express their appreciation for co-workers.  While some Integrity ideas are challenging or costly to implement, “Give Horizontal Thanks” can be simple and free.  It recognizes that it is humanizing for people to be “seen”, to know that they are valued and valuable, and to know that their efforts are appreciated.  While it can be as simple as saying “thank you”, it is most effective when tailored to the situation and the person being appreciated.  In any form, “Give Horizontal Thanks” recognizes the Imago Dei in others and lives out the Golden Rule and the commandment to love others as God has loved you.  It creates connection and reinforces a business a better way culture that prioritizes relationships, community, human dignity and flourishing. It is also an opportunity to help a person flourish by understanding their identity as a creation in God’s image as well as God’s greater purpose for their work–how their unique gifts contribute to the organization’s bigger WHY. 

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Photo credit: Original photo by James Orr on Unsplash (photo cropped)