Appreciation Tops Money as a Job Motivator

Pharmacy employees may feel more motivated by a "thanks" from the pharmacist in charge than the paychecks in their bank accounts.

Pharmacy employees may feel more motivated by a “thanks” from the pharmacist in charge than the paychecks in their bank accounts.

Janice Kaplan’s book The Gratitude Diaries, excerpted in The Wall Street Journal, delves into what makes appreciation such a powerful motivator.

Kaplan cited a 2013 study on gratitude, which found that 80% of 2000 Americans surveyed said gratitude makes them work harder. Nevertheless, only 10% said they showed gratitude to others in the workplace each day.

In 2011, researchers at the London School of Economics conducted a study that found workers are motivated by appreciation, interesting work, and tasks that provide purpose or meaning.

Adam Grant, PhD, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, told Kaplan that the most successful leaders will not only show appreciation for others, but also voice their needs or concerns.

“A sense of appreciation is the single most sustainable motivator at work,” Dr. Grant told Kaplan. “Extrinsic motivators can stop having much meaning. Your raise in pay feels like your just due, your bonus gets spent, your new title doesn’t sound so important once you have it. But the sense that other people appreciate what you do sticks with you.”

According to Kaplan, the most effective way to show appreciation is to say thanks—but with specificity about what exactly is appreciated.