Holiday and end of year celebrations are inching closer and closer. You may be wondering what you should say to congratulate your staff or motivate them as 2022 approaches. Should you even say anything at all? Should you have been handing out more recognition and appreciation all along? Maybe just let people mingle and drink too much? Does intentionality around social recognition really matter? Our answer is, yes! Yes, it does. If you want to motivate your team in meaningful ways that will improve productivity in the new year, you must have a plan. Giving a one-and-done toast at a party is not a social recognition system. But if you are searching for a plan that works, we have one for you!

At Dimalanta, we’ve developed a simple conceptual framework about the process of appreciation. This shorthand catch phrase describes the 3 main pillars of our culture training program.

Share, Ask, Laugh.

In your team meetings and holiday parties, you carve out time to share. Sharing is a time devoted to what’s important to your team in that moment, regardless of the organizational tasks in front of them. You allow your team members to share what they would normally never share because they don’t believe it is important to the meeting. You use generous authority and ask everyone to keep their share to 3-5 minutes and you offer support and empathy.

As your employees share, you will start to notice empathy flow, bonds form, and trust build among your employees. The situations and emotions your employees are holding affect them whether they discuss these personal items or not. When your team is given space to share what’s important to them, they feel a sense of relief and belonging. In that sense of calm, creativity emerges.

The next pillar is ask. Ask is not just something you bring to the table as a discussion topic, it stands as the main support beam to almost everything we talk about in team trainings. Ask is something we encourage you to develop as a cultural norm in your workplace and it is a key component of psychological safety. At the start of a meeting, emphasize to your employees that you expect an Ask out of them. This means you expect and allow your team to ask for what they need. 

They might ask for…

-Support or understanding after they share something personal.

-More details about a project.

-More support, learning, or guidance on a project.

-Feedback on projects.

Also, encourage your team to ask each other, before giving feedback.

Ask encompasses a lot of what it means to work in a healthy environment and it’s how we activate almost every trust building tool that exists. Ask involves courage, vulnerability, curiosity, and some understanding of each other’s personalities. It also eliminates the dysfunctional behaviors that disrupt innovation and productivity. Behaviors like gossip, perfectionism, avoidance, lack of empathy, and shame and blame.

What Ask does for a team:

  1. Ask requires admitting that we’re human and we can’t do it all.
  2. It helps us face our perfectionism and our judgment.
  3. Ask humbles us and creates environments that encourage something honest, pure, creative, and curious.
  4. It bonds us and creates moments of connection.

When we are given the opportunity to ask for what we need and take the step of openly doing so, a whole new world of cultural health opens up.

The last pillar is laugh. This one may surprise you. Laugh has everything to do with turning your employees into family and your business into a success. You may be thinking, isn’t laughter a byproduct of healthy culture not a tool to shape healthy culture? In this case, it’s both: we can create defining moments that elicit joy and, in most cases, laughter, connecting and elevating those who experience the moment together.  

We love how Chip and Dan Heath, authors of The Power of Moments, explain how defining moments in our lives are created:

Elevation: Defining moments that rise above the everyday. They provoke not just transient happiness, like laughing at a friend’s joke, but memorable delight. Moments of elevation transcend the normal course of events; they are literally extraordinary.

Insight: Defining moments rewire our understanding of ourselves or the world. In a few seconds or minutes, we realize something that might influence our lives for decades.

Pride: Defining moments capture us at our best–moments of achievement, moments of courage.

Connection: Defining moments are social: weddings, graduations, baptisms, vacations, work triumphs, bar and bat mitzvahs, speeches and sporting events. These moments are strengthened because we share them with others.

Defining moments often spark positive emotion or “peaks.”

(Health, Dan, and Chip Heath. The Power of Moments. Simon and Schuster, 2017.)

Chip and Dan Heath describe how to think in moments, break the script, and build peaks. Their book inspires the idea that human beings are changed for the better and more connected when they experience special moments together. In our experience, moments of elevation are just the beginning. When a team leader is thinking in moments, especially about social recognition, his team not only experiences a great amount of joy in those specific moments but for the rest of the year. Our funny memories, inside jokes, shared meaning, and excitement carries connection into collaboration efforts, planning, production, brainstorm sessions, and on and on. Laughter literally changes everything for the better, even our health. According to an article from the Mayo Clinic, laughter has short-term and long-term benefits:

Short-term benefits

A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:

  • Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
  • Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
  • Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.

Long-term effects

Laughter isn’t just a quick pick-me-up, though. It’s also good for you over the long term. Laughter may:

  • Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
  • Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.
  • Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.
  • Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your stress, depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier. It can also improve your self-esteem.

(Mayo Clinic Staff. “Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke.”,  Accessed October 26th, 2021.

Laughter, and more importantly, meaningful connection with others isn’t just a good idea, it is a crucial aspect of productivity. The positive ripple effect that consistent laughter and feelings of belonging have on a business are immeasurable, but definitely understandable when you look at the science. If laughter helps alleviate stress, what is happening in the brain when we are stressed and what is stress inhabiting? Harvard Medical School has the answer:

Studies in both animals and people show pretty clearly that stress can affect how the brain functions, says Dr. Kerry Ressler, chief scientific officer at McLean Hospital and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Scientists have seen changes in how the brain processes information when people experience either real-life stress or stress manufactured in a research setting. (For the latter, researchers might challenge subjects to perform a difficult task, such as counting backward from the number 1,073 by 13s while being graded.) Either type of stress seems to interfere with cognition, attention, and memory, he says.

(Harvard Medical School. “Protect your brain from stress” Harvard Health Publishing School, Accessed October 26th, 2021.)

According to Harvard Medical School, lack of support adds to feelings of stress. Their research also suggests that if you feel supported during your stress, you are likely to weather it more successfully than if you don’t. This is profound evidence in support of workplace connection and psychological safety. When we feel supported and connected which can be created through moments of elevation and laughter, our brains work better! If our brains are able to effectively problem solve, focus, innovate, create, and retain information, not only will our employees be healthier people, but our businesses will see more success. Stress is inevitable, but if we walk into work environments that are encouraging and set up for connection, we’ll feel a sense of relief instead of an increasing burden.

On that point, gratitude is also a crucial piece in the Laugh puzzle. Managers who implement consistent gratitude in their social recognition practice, will see positive behavioral changes and more joy among their teams. In a gratitude immersed work environment, you will begin to see employees and managers expressing gratitude to each other. This creates a positive ripple effect that is hard to quantify. The book, Making Work Human, offers a wonderful example of this:

An employee turns in a bit of great performance, and a manager or peer says, “Thank you” or “Great job!” The receiver feels amazing about that kind of appreciation and goes on to repeat that positive behavior in some way. The employee’s performance goes up. The employee’s morale goes up. The employee’s energy and engagement go up. Positive reinforcement has the power to do that.

Gratitude also changes the giver:

When you give an award or when you write a special message describing how it impacted you, you expose yourself a little more. You are just a bit vulnerable at that moment. You’re authentic. There’s really no room in your head for cynicism at that moment when you write that special message describing how impressed you were with that piece of performance. 

(Mosely, Eric, Derek, Irvine. Making Work Human: How Human-Centered Companies are Changing the Future of Work and the World. McGraw Hill, 2021.)

Gratitude doesn’t have to be expressed in extravagant ways. We suggest you start with authentic moments of genuine expressions once a month at a team meeting or at your upcoming holiday party! Keep in mind, investing even 1% of payroll into gratitude practices can launch tremendous success for your business. Smiles for days…

There you have it. The 3 pillars of our culture work and the foundation of a thriving social recognition strategy. Share. Ask. Laugh. Have a great holiday and a happy new year!

Clarify your brand. Download 5 Steps to Successful Marketing