Thursday, December 27, 2012

Affirmation in the Workplace

By: Samantha Donohue
MSBA Class of 2013

The Nature of Affirmation

Remember back to the time when you first learned how to ride a bike without training wheels. You are holding your dad’s hand as you mount the bike and he guides you through the motions of pedaling and steering. As soon as he lets go of your hand you begin to pedal on your own, and you instinctually look back to see if your dad saw you succeed.

Now fast-forward a few years to your freshmen year of college. You raise your hand to answer a question and the professor picks you. After you present your answer, the professor compliments you in front of the class for your profound insight and personally congratulates you after class. You feel more confident and excited for the year.

Let’s fast-forward once more to your first week of working. Your boss calls you into his office to speak with you regarding the recent analysis you submitted. He praises you for your method and clear presentation and he rewards you by putting you in charge of a special project you expressed interest in. You are pleased with yourself and motivated to accomplish the next task. The key element amongst all of these examples is your fundamental desire for affirmation. Whether you are a child, a student, or an employee, you seek affirmation. No matter your stage in life, up-bringing, culture, or occupation, affirmation plays a role in your life. Affirmation is essential to the fulfillment of the human person.

 My Analysis of Affirmation

Through attending the MSBA program I have not only learned crucial skills for business analysis and marketing, but I have been challenged to evaluate my core values and understand the role they will play in the workplace. We look beyond the different management and marketing structures and functionalities to the core principles of successful manager. In our Management with Integrity class, we examine and reenact case studies of credible companies. Through our analysis we devise possible solutions to the presented situation.

One particular case, the Jensen Shoes Case, we discussed the poor management strategies and the lack communication between a CEO, manager, and employee. I would argue that at the heart of this predicament lies the lack of affirmation Chuck, the CEO, has for Brooks, the employee. Lyndon Brooks was hired to be the Product Promotions Manager for an undecided target market. He was then assigned to the African American and Latino markets without given a choice and he was given an inexperienced team. Brooks raised his concern to Chuck, but Chuck did not take his concerns seriously and simply advised Brooks to do his best. This conversation left Brooks more confused and unfilled. 

After Brooks had spent a significant amount of time on the project, Chuck reassigned him to work as an individual contributor to the Strategic Product Marketing team. Brooks was expected to tell his team the situation, leave the team behind, and work under a manager, Jane. Brooks was very frustrated at this new arrangement and at Chuck’s lack of concern. Brooks’ initial meeting with Jane is cordial and Brooks is hopeful of getting to do a special project he has expressed interest in. By the second meeting, Jane is upset that Brooks is focusing more on his special project than on completing the tasks he has been assigned. Jane is receiving pressure from Chuck and Brooks is not performing. 

A cycle of frustration and misunderstandings continues between Brooks, Jane, and Chuck. Chuck’s continual lack of affirmation for Brooks’ ideas and efforts is the cause of tension and ultimately Brooks lack of fulfillment at Jensen’s shoes.

Affirmation in the Workplace

  Through further investigation on the topic of affirmation in the workplace, I came across the book titled, “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace” by Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Paul White. Gary Chapman is the author of the #1 New York Times best seller, “The 5 Love Languages” and he is director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants, Inc. Dr. Paul White is a psychologist, author, speaker, and consultant who has been involved with businesses, non-profit organizations, families, and leaders for more than 20 years. These two experts have aspired to help business owners, CEOs, supervisors, and coworkers to increase loyalty and decrease turnover of employees and volunteers, reduce cynicism and create a more positive work environment, elevate employee engagement by making staff feel truly valued, and replace ineffective employee recognition with authentic appreciation. According to the book, affirmation is incorporated into appreciation in the workplace specifically as the language, words of affirmation. Words of affirmation is the language that uses words to communicate a positive message to another person. With words of affirmation, you are verbally affirming a positive characteristic about a person. There are many different ways that these words can be communicated. A few ways include praise for accomplishments, affirmation of character, and praise for personality. In order for words of affirmation to be effective, they must be given in the context of a positive relationship. Words of affirmation is one of the most powerful languages because communication is vital to the workplace. The other languages of appreciation in the workplace include quality time, acts of service, tangible gifts, and physical touch. I encourage anyone who wants to be successful in business to invest in this book and speak the 5 languages of appreciation daily.         

Stewart McHie
Director, MS in Business Analysis


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