Much good work goes unrecognized. People make fine contributions that no one acknowledges. Perhaps the work is so subtle it defies notice but perhaps the work falls on deaf ears: others notice but they do not move themselves to comment or appreciate.

When attending a music festival this week I witness a culture that believes in appreciation. When people perform well as musicians or teachers, they are literally applauded. People clap their hands. Last evening in the course of the evening session, one of the group would play a brief solo, receive applause, and then the group would play a few more tunes together.

Recognition is energizing. Low levels of reward and recognition are among the six areas of worklife that make a major difference in whether people experience engagement or burnout. Some groups show a culture of appreciation: people attend to one another’s contributions and make a point of commenting. Other workgroups

Receiving applause is not without its costs. For others to appreciate your work you need to make it visible. Being open to praise means to be open to scrutiny. The musician who plays a tune for a group of fellow musicians has an audience with a refined sense of quality. When working in a climate of appreciation, it is important to do your best work.

Taking Action:

Make a point of complementing colleagues this week. Keep a tally of the number of times you say something that acknowledges and celebrates a contribution. You may spark a movement.

Exhaustion with Reward

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I have been working with my colleagues on untangling the story of burnout for a few decades. There are fascinating questions about the experience itself. Just a few: What feelings or behaviors led people to conclude that they are experiencing burnout? As the nature of work has changed in meaningful ways over time, has the experience of burnout changed accordingly?

To explore these questions, we have launched a survey asking people to relate their stories of experiencing burnout.

If you have a story to tell, please follow this link and describe your experience.

We will be following up with some of the online responders for more in-depth interviews.


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