Christmas OrnamentIt’s a Christmas classic. Every year, we enjoy the journey of the Grinch — from ninja-level curmudgeon, to repenter of his ways, and, finally, to the hero of the day.

The Grinch remains an interesting character. He’s so filled with anger and resentment that it clouds his vision and, certainly, his judgment. He embarks on a journey that he thinks will fill the hole in his small and fragile heart. Yet, as we know, the results of his mayhem leave him cold and without joy or satisfaction. It is not until his “aha” moment that things change for the better.

Now, apply the story of the Grinch to the typical workplace.

Sometimes, the “grinches” are easy to spot. They are the cold, angry, miserable people who can steal happiness just by entering a room.

Then, there are those who have what I call an “inner grinch.” Although they appear to be brimming with good intentions, something isn’t quite right. They think their superficial attempts to interact with others – especially in the areas of recognition and – are just fine. Their “inner grinch” whispers to them that the box of candy they give, the few words of faint praise they offer at a staff meeting, or the token gift card will fully satisfy the recipient.

In reality, this person is stingy and cursory in showing appreciation.

Despite all that they try to do, these individuals are discouraged by their results. They had hoped that bestowing recognition would work out better. They have looked for but haven’t seen any positive results resulting from their one-size-fits-all approach to appreciation. Then they become disillusioned, questioning whether this “appreciation stuff” really works at all.

Eventually, since they feel like their efforts are ignored (or rebuffed), they start making negative assumptions about their coworkers along these lines: “They don’t really care” and “They’re ungrateful.” They turn into appreciation grinches. Their inner grinch steals away their ability to see the truth that not all forms of appreciation are created equal.

TreeWhat they need is a “aha” moment where they stop trying to force-feed appreciation to others in the way that makes sense to them. Instead, they need to take the time to understand what the real issue is: not everyone feels valued and appreciated in the same way.

In our book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation at Work, we identify five ways to show others how much you really do value them — through “Words of Affirmation,” “Acts of Service,” “Quality Time,” “Tangible Gifts,” and “Physical Touch.”

When people are taught how to give individualized, authentic appreciation – appreciation that others truly value – the inner grinch fades away, and a new colleague emerges. This renewed person may now be the one who leads the charge in making sure everyone feels uniquely valued and encouraged!

That’s a journey we can all appreciate.


This article was written with Dave Tippett, PHR, director of on site learning and consulting at The Employers’ Association. Tippett has more than 30 years of management and training experience. He is also an award-winning playwright and author. 

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