How the Grinch stole appreciation at work (and how to get it back)

It’s a Christmas classic. Every year we enjoy the journey of the Grinch — from ninja-level curmudgeon, to repenting of his ways and then saving the day.

The Grinch remains an interesting character. He’s so filled with anger and resentment that it clouds his vision and certainly his judgment. He embarks on a journey that he thinks will fill the hole in his small and fragile heart. Yet, as we know, the results of his mayhem left him cold and wondering why there was no joy or satisfaction. It was not until his ‘ah ha’ moment that things changed for the better.

Now, apply this to the typical workplace. Sometimes, the “grinches” are easy to spot. They are the cold, angry, miserable people who can steal happiness by just entering a room. And there are those who have what I call an “inner Grinch.” Although they appear to be brimming with good intentions, something isn’t right. They think their superficial attempts to interact with others, especially in the area of recognition and appreciation, are just fine. Their inner Grinch whispers to them that the mug with candy they give, the few words of faint praise at a staff meeting or the token gift card will fully satisfy the recipient. In reality, they are stingy and cursory in showing appreciation.

Despite all that they try to do, these individuals are discouraged by their results. They had hoped that bestowing recognition would work out better. They have looked for but haven’t seen any positive results resulting from their one-size fits all approach to appreciation. Then they become disillusioned, questioning whether this “appreciation stuff” really works at all.

Eventually, since they feel like their efforts are ignored (or rebuffed), they make negative assumptions about their co-workers along these lines: “They don’t really care” and “They’re ungrateful.” They turn into appreciation grinches. Their inner Grinch steals away their ability to see the truth that not all forms of appreciation are created equal.

What they need is an ‘ah ha’ moment, where they stop trying to force-feed appreciation to others in the way that makes sense to them. They need to take the time to understand what the real issue is: not everyone feels valued and appreciated in the same way.

In my book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation at Work, I identify five ways to show others how much you really do value them — through Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Quality Time, Tangible Gifts and Physical Touch.

When taught to give individualized authentic appreciation- what others truly value – the inner Grinch fades away, and a new colleague emerges.

This renewed person is now the one who leads the charge in making sure everyone feels uniquely valued and encouraged.

That’s a journey we can all appreciate.

This article was co-authored with Dave Tippett, PHR, the Director of On Site Learning and Consulting at The Employers’ Association. He has over 30 years of management and training experience, as well as an award-winning playwright and author.

This article was originally published on Appreciation at Work.