Spend Freely With "Soft Currency"
Organizational change creates a climate of heightened concern. Even employees who personally benefit from the changes may be shaken by what they see happen to their comrades. Usually a pervasive sense of loss clouds the work environment. People feel more vulnerable. Even those who are initially unscathed remain uneasy about the eventual ramifications, and wait for the next shoe to fall.
You can safely assume that employees feel threatened . . . at risk . . . disempowered. These feelings demotivate your crew and interfere with team reconstruction. You need to rebuild people’s confidence, restore their faith in themselves and the future. You also need to “give them something for the trouble” they’re going through.
The odds are that your group members find themselves working longer and harder while having less fun. Often for the same money as before. The big question in everybody’s mind is, “What’s in it for me?” They feel like they’re putting more into their jobs and that the rewards aren’t on par with their efforts. Meanwhile, you’re boxed in by the fact that you have only so much money to spend.
If you can’t compensate with more cash, how will you reward good performance?
The intangible rewards you have to offer are limitless. Words of encouragement, compliments, empathy and understanding, a note of appreciation. Stopping to share a cup of coffee, or taking the employee to lunch. Bigger titles or special assignments. More decision-making authority. A sincere thank you. Asking about the family, celebrating small victories, soliciting opinions and suggestions. Listening . . . really listening. A mere smile, or calling the person by name. A warm handshake or pat on the back. Taking the person into your confidence. Even asking the employee for help—“needing” the person—is gratifying because it validates one’s worth.
Caring, of course, takes time. It also requires you to pay attention to what’s going on with your people. But caring makes a remarkable contribution to team reconstruction. Psychological paychecks have an intrinsic value that hard currency can never touch.
Create a supportive work environment—nurture—and watch it bring out the best in people. Show approval, and see how it warms the group. When you affirm, you empower. People feel safer, valued, and more optimistic. The trust level notches up.
Employees show more creativity and engage their talents more fully. Psychological paychecks also build loyalty and commitment, buy the support of your people, and facilitate “bonding.”
Most managers don’t realize the importance that their acceptance and approval carry with subordinates. As a result, they waste this most precious resource through sheer neglect—like a bank account they never touch, money they never spend, that could be freely used to motivate and improve employees’ quality of work life.
When it comes to handing out psychological paychecks, you should spend extravagantly. Your generosity will be richly rewarded. Make every team member feel special, and you’ll end up with a very special team.