"The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated." - William James (psychologist)
I've found it amusing looking at how many companies try to retain talent. When an employee slugs it out at work, they don't get recognized because the employee ensures everything runs smooth. And when things run smooth no one bothers about you. When an employee threatens to quit, the employer cajoles them and offers incentives to appease them. I've heard it happen a number of times and I wonder why employers don't give what an employee deserves on time. If you feel you can afford to give incentives why are you waiting till the threat of resignation arrives?
Why not do it earlier if they really deserve it?
"Appreciate everything your associates do for the business. Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They're absolutely free and worth a fortune." - Sam Walton (founder of Wal-Mart)
A lot of times the same happens with awards - not giving it to people who should actually get it and instead give it to someone just because they never got an award yet; cyclic rotation like what happens in film awards where they try to satisfy all the celebs! What's wrong if the same person were to get an award twice? If they really deserve it, other people are not going to crib that the same person got it again. Instead, awarding someone just because they never got an award, or offering incentives just because a person threatens only dampens the spirits of everyone around. The reasoning among them goes, "That guy did so much and they haven't even recognized his work. So why should I worry about putting extra effort?"
Or maybe there are some execution problems involved in this; I can probably shed light on that aspect when I'm running my own company :-)
"Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I may not forget you." - William Arthur Ward (author)
Look around and it probably doesn't stick to the workplace alone - if someone does something good, has tried something which might have failed but was a noble attempt, go on and appreciate them. A couple of words do a lot of good in cheering up a person. Overdoing it will dilute the effect; be genuine in appreciation and people will feel happy.
"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around." - Leo Buscaglia (author)