Wardipedia – 34. Appreciative culture

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Well done and thank you



There are zillions of books, gurus, websites and Post-it notes in the shape of company logos, all designed to help staff and customers feel appreciated. We can now reveal the Star Wards’ take on all this. Three words:

“Thank you for…..”

Oh. And another three:

“Well done for….”

That’s it. All those longitudinal, random controlled, double-blind, triple A-rated studies and really it boils down to not just thinking those Thank Yous and Well Dones, but actually managing to get them transferred from brain to mouth. Most managers feel that they do express this regularly to their teams, but when staff are asked, they report that this rarely happens. Colleagues can also feel self-conscious and awkward (and perhaps a little too American) conveying appreciation and praise to each other.

Where a culture of gratitude hasn’t been established the seeds of  discontent and disengagement are more likely to flourish. Conversely, showing appreciation is a powerful motivator – the best perhaps! This idea is about practicing being aware of when colleagues go the extra mile and showing you appreciate their efforts

As you’ll probably know, all the research shows that what motivates people the most is ‘simply’ feeling appreciated for their unique, individual contribution to the work. So it’s really really important that everyone feels able to say those three words… and to complete the sentence!

The nifty bit is including the word ‘for’. This is where you get specific and identify what in particular you appreciate about the other person and their action which you’re appreciating.

  • Thank you for helping Bob to feel calmer.
  • Well done for getting management to take seriously our concerns about the heating.
  • Thank you for being such a supportive colleague.
  • Thank you for listening so attentively to me wittering on about the disaster with the lemon meringue pie.

If it isn’t possible to formulate quite what you are saying thank you for, a good fudge is to say something like “Thanks so much for doing that.”

A chap called William Arthur Ward described it nicely:

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it, is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”


Notice other people’s achievements
It takes generosity to spot an act of creativity, compassion or kindness, but like any skill, when regularly exercised it can become second nature. Remembering how good it feels when people praise something you’ve done can be a big motivator for recognising when someone else has done something special.

Say something!
The more specific your comment is, the more it will mean to the other person. Often the accomplishment on a fraught shift is having kept your patience and sense of humour. This well deserves a rousing “Well done!” and general thankingness.

Ramping it up
Congratulations and thanks are the biggies. But they can be reinforced with small gestures such as:

  • Listening! The person you’re thanking may have lots of feelings about what’s happened and, more than anything, would welcome the chance to talk about it. (And this creates more opportunities for you to be expressively impressed with what they’ve managed to do.)
  • Little notes, whether via a scrap of paper, a post-it note, an email or the ward whiteboard.
  • Small, thoughtful gifts. Food is always popular!
  • Applaud their efforts. Literally! How fantastic would someone feel to get a round of applause or even a standing ovation at a meeting. (Marion got a real boost during her last inpatient admission when some conciliatory points she, somewhat apprehensively made about the staff in a ‘lively’ ward meeting were met with…. patients clapping!)
  • Creating a fun tradition for a seasonal holiday.
  • Keeping great memories. The team could have a scrapbook (or one of those folders with plastic inserts or any other stationery solution that does the job!) with notes, photos and other mementos of staff achievements.
  • Publicising individuals’ successes. Idea #66, Good News looks at how this can be done.

Ward examples

  • The ward has a ‘thank you tree’ on the wall. Staff, patients and visitors are invited to stick post-its of thanks to the tree. Anyone can show their appreciation to know whoever they like. Patients can thank each other, nursing staff can thank the house-keeping staff, consultants can thank the nursing staff and so on…
  • All wards at the unit have ‘time out days’. They take place off the ward and all staff attend. These happen once a year and cover all aspects of the ward. They sometimes include fun activities, team building, and talks etc. So these are great opportunities to show a bit of love.
  • Regular team meetings are a good place to tell colleagues that they’re doing a good job. They don’t just have to be about discussing problems.
  • Acknowledging what works well.  Having a thank you board or positive comments board including staff and patients and management comments.
  • The Trust is keen on appreciative approaches. Did root cause analysis of a compliment!


Patient examples

  • I often felt like I let everyone down so it was lovely to feel appreciated.
  • I never felt like I could do anything right. The ward, as a whole, worked hard to acknowledge each individual’s achievements, no matter how small.
  • Expectations and achievements are relative and hugely personal. We all tried to be very respectful of this.
  • The OT department took great pride in handing out certificates for the things we used to make or learn. I took great pride in accepting them.
  • I used to design the certificates for the other patients when they had achieved something special. It was a lovely feeling seeing others thrive.


Categories: Generosity, Wardipedia