10 Sentences Every Employee Wants to Hear

We never give thought to how the words we put out have a cause and effect that influences the future. To state the obvious: Words are powerful.

Effective leaders understand the power of their words and therefore proactively communicate in a manner which creates an encompassing workplace where employees feel appreciated and heard.

It would not be a wild guess to presume that the number one complaint employees have of their leader(s) is the failure to recognize their achievements, individuality, efforts, etc. For some reason, as cost effective as it is, employee recognition remains an undervalued management technique.

Outstanding leaders understand that appreciation is a fundamental human need. They embrace the psychology that employees respond to appreciation/recognition of their work because it confirms their work is valued. When employees and their work are valued, their satisfaction and productivity rises, and thus are motivated to maintain or improve their work.

As a starting point here are 10 things leaders can say to their employees to increase connectivity and employee recognition:

1. “Thank you” (personal and public)

Publically thanking an employee during a meeting, in the lunchroom, while riding the elevator, in the company newsletter or simply one-on-one is powerful. Feel free to say “Thank you” often.

2. “Here’s what I appreciate about you and your contribution.”

Be specific, something along the line of “I appreciate the way you negotiated with Fred in accounting to free up two of his staff to help with this year’s inventory count. The extra assistance is why we were able to finish this year’s inventory on time with minimal stress.” Take notice of an employee’s unique, specific contributions and make them aware you value what they bring to the table.

3. “What do you think?”

Soliciting ideas and opinions from employees shows you value their expertise. Besides asking an employee what they think you can ask: “What have you noticed?” “How do you think we could improve?” “What is keeping us stuck?” “What do you love about it?” On many occasions, my asking these questions has resulted in redirecting my thinking.

4. “Here’s what’s happening and what you can expect.”

Withholding information is a huge distraction for employees. They need “real talk” about their future. As a leader don’t underestimate the ability of the employee to accept the “why” if communicated in an honest way. Managers gain deep respect when they share as much as they know, good or bad, as soon as they can.

5. “I have some feedback for you.”

A culture of continual feedback is healthy, nimble and timely. Waiting until the next performance review makes your feedback history.

6. “Let me share a time I got it wrong.” or “Let me tell you about something I learned the hard way.”

This is another way of saying “That’s Ok. We all make mistakes.” I find it therapeutic to reflect and laugh at my own mistakes and the lessons life has taught me, therefore I often say this. When the inevitable mistake happens, take a deep breath and remind yourself you have made your fair share of mistakes and that a mistake is a learning/coaching opportunity.

7. “I need your help.”

Your employees don’t expect you to be Superman or Wonder Woman. Pretending to know all the answers will alienate you from your employees. As a leader, you will not lose respect treating your employees as valued partners.

8. “What do you need from me?”

Often, because they fear a harsh response or appearing needy, employees are anxious about asking the boss for what they need. In many instances, the employee may feel it’s not their place to ask for more than then they have already been provided.

By explicitly asking what you can give them, you extend permission for your people to make those requests and they will certainly appreciate it. If you can’t give an employee what she asks for, explain why and work with her to find another solution.

9. “Hey everyone, listen to what Joe accomplished!”

Everybody loves to be recognized and complimented in front of their peers. So don’t stop with a compliment when an employee experiences a win, tell the rest of the team! Many employees feel their leaders point out only their mistakes in front of their peers; make it your daily mission to prove that perception wrong.

10. “I know you can do it.”

Obviously, you should hire employees who are confident and self-directed. However, even the most self-assured individual appreciates a vote of confidence from their leader. Constantly challenge your people, push them to improve while reassuring them that you believe in them. Everyone, no matter how capable or experienced they are, appreciates the encouragement.

Employees want more than a paycheck. They want to know they are valued and feel they are participating in the growth of the company. Words, the right words, can do all this and more!