Spirit in Business VII

The Economics of Acknowledgment

Elizabeth Tobin
Enjoy Success

Liz Tobin

If you thought this was going to be another blog post about how employee recognition is good business, think again.  Now, I’m not saying that employee recognition programs aren’t good for morale or that they don’t boost productivity.  The conventional wisdom says that they do. 

In fact, did you know that employee recognition programs are big business?  There are even companies that specialize in managing other companies’ employee appreciation and incentive programs!

But here’s what I really want to talk about. 

I listened to a radio show recently about the discrepancy in earning power between men and women.  There was something said during that broadcast that really piqued my interest. 

During the show, a father called in and recounted a story about his daughter.  From the list of her career accomplishments it was clear that this woman was very competent in her job.  She consistently received emails from her clients thanking her for delivering ahead of schedule and exceeding their expectations. 

So what was the problem?

Why was this proud papa concerned for his daughter’s career prospects?

Well, he was concerned that his daughter wasn’t writing her “brag book.”  And this may be hurting her economically.

This was the first I’d heard of a brag book, so I did a little research. 

I found out that a brag book is a binder you put together to document your work accomplishments.  It can include letters of recommendation, notes from happy clients thanking you for a job well done, copies of articles you’ve written, positive annual reviews, certifications and awards, etc. 

You show your brag book in job interviews, salary negotiations, and employee reviews.  Your brag book helps you demonstrate that you’ve got initiative, professionalism, organization, and specialized skills.  It speaks to your qualifications and sets you apart from the competition.

One employment recruiter says that a brag book can be very persuasive in the hiring interview if you present it right

I emphasized if you present it right, because this same recruiter said she was shocked to learn that she had been sending one of her clients out on multiple job interviews, and he’d only presented his brag book once, — and that was only because the hiring manager had asked to see it!

Now of course tooting your own horn has its appropriate time and place.  As the saying goes, nobody likes a braggart.  But surely, in job interviews and salary negotiations aren’t you expected to show people proof of what you can do?

Both of these stories describe a common problem that I have helped people to overcome in my Resonance Repatterning practice.

You see, many people feel uncomfortable acknowledging their achievements — even when it’s appropriate — and even when it’s expected.  I can’t tell you how many people minimize their accomplishments and they aren’t even aware of how this affects the quality of their relationships and their level of success at work and at home. 

Lack of acknowledgment also affects your own sense of well-being, and here’s why…

Feeling a sense of accomplishment and acknowledging your successes is actually good for your brain because it strengthens your “internal reward system.”  Studies have shown that consistently acknowledging your successes helps you to keep motivated and persevere through difficulties. 

This is all driven by “the reward molecule” – dopamine – which is linked to positive behavior reinforcement.  Dopamine is responsible for that rush you get when you accomplish your goal.  And scientists have discovered that the production of dopamine is directly linked to the formation of habits, both bad ones and good.

But what happens if you consistently minimize your accomplishments? You are training your brain to respond to success as if it were “No big deal.”

Got a new job?
No big deal. 

Just landed that account you’ve been trying to get for months?
No big deal. 

Just completed a major step in your big project?
No big deal.

No big deal equals no dopamine, and this sets up a pattern of “Why bother?”

Why bother being successful?

Why bother even trying?

As you can imagine over time it becomes hard to find a sense of purpose.  When you’re stuck in this pattern you become ruled by perfectionism because nothing is ever good enough.  And contentment and fulfillment go out the window because it’s hard to take pleasure in a job well done. 

I suspect that the root cause is not resonating with the frequency of acknowledgment.  We all need acknowledgment.  It’s a basic life need and one of the essential building blocks for good self-esteem. 

So, how can you tell if you’re not resonating with acknowledgment?

If you find yourself minimizing your accomplishments or deflecting a compliment, these are clues that you are not resonating with acknowledgment.  When you are not resonating with acknowledgment you deny or minimize your needs.  In fact, you may not even be aware of your true needs and feelings. 

Unacknowledged needs and suppressed emotions become your unconscious drivers.  Personal strengths move into your shadow and become inaccessible.  This disconnection is the breeding ground for self-sabotage, self-doubt, and self-denial.  And the end result is procrastination and lack of joy and motivation.

So what’s the solution?

Get in the habit of patting yourself on the back.  You can re-train your brain to produce more dopamine and break out of this cycle of discontent. 

My husband and I have made a conscious effort to boost our sense of accomplishment by acknowledging our successes.

When we sit down to dinner we have a ritual of recounting our day’s accomplishments.  We list of all of the things we did right during the day.  Some days it doesn’t seem like we accomplished much at all.  But these are the days when it’s especially important to find something to appreciate!

“I got out of bed.”

“I drove home safely.”

“I made a nice dinner.”

It’s all about boosting your dopamine and retraining your brain for success.  Over time, you’ll find that your sense of purpose and satisfaction grows.  No matter how small a thing, give yourself a pat on the back!

My husband and I have also practiced taking in compliments, and allowing them to land in our hearts, without deflecting them.  Notice how many times, when someone gives you a compliment and you immediately respond back with a compliment of your own.  Have you fully taken in their compliment?

Notice whether you diminish the compliment. 

“Wow! You did an excellent job.”
“Oh anyone could have done the same.”

“This cake is delicious.”
“It’s a tad dry, I should have taken it out of the oven sooner.”

“That’s a beautiful painting you did.”
“I’m not crazy about the blue.”

Here’s something you can practice: When someone gives you a compliment, simply say, “Thank you.” Do not return the compliment.  Do not make a self diminishing remark.  Simply say, “Thank you” and allow yourself to fully take it in.

This may be difficult at first because social niceties say it’s polite to reciprocate.  But give it a try.  Sometimes the greatest gift you can give to someone is accepting their compliment with gratitude, grace, sincerity and humility. 

And remember that appreciating and acknowledging your own accomplishments may be the greatest gift that you can give to yourself.  So get in the habit of giving yourself credit and appreciation.  Start acknowledging your successes and you’ll find that your successes expand along with your level of contentment, satisfaction and happiness.  And if that’s not incentive enough for you, remember that acknowledgement may just increase your income, too!

Let’s Hear from You: What other things can you do to boost your level of satisfaction and accomplishment?


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