5 Key Behaviors To Go From ResLife Supervisor to Leader: Acknowledge Their Work

This is a five part series based on best practices for supervisors. Each of these principles on their own can achieve great leadership, but all five will ensure it.

1. Personalize Your Supervisory Style
2. Communication is Key
3. Know Who Works For You
4. Acknowledge Their Work
5. Respect Their Expertise

One of the least utilized tools in employee management is appreciation. While you may be very aware of the good work your employees are doing, if you fail to mention it, they will never know it. You have to make time for appreciation and congratulations. 

“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.”

Margaret Cousins

There are multiple ways that you may misstep when it comes to recognizing your employees hard work. Some supervisors slip into the “They know I appreciate their work because I haven’t told them otherwise” mentality. Unfortunately, however, the reverse is more likely to be true. For many people, if you haven’t told them, even if you know they are doing well, they assume that they are not. People by nature crave feedback. This is especially true if they have previously worked in a toxic workspace where their supervisors were passive aggressive or if they’ve ever lost a job unexpectedly. For many people no news is bad news. I’m not suggesting your employees need constant reassurance, but they definitely don’t need radio silence. 

Some supervisors also slip into the even more detrimental “Their paycheck is their thanks” mentality. Yes, people work to be paid, but if that was all people needed, they would never leave a high paying job, or choose jobs in fields where the pay is historically low. There is a hierarchy of needs in regard to work and life. Appreciation is relatively important on that hierarchy and it’s a need that is easily met. If you believe that the only motivation your staff needs is a salary, you will not retain hard working and passionate employees. Acknowledging and appreciating the everyday work your employees do is how you keep their morale up and their job searching down.

The Challenge for Residence Life Professionals

In Residence Life, it can be easy to get caught up in the fast-paced needs of your department, especially during those intense workload months. (Hello August!) When you’re working twelve-to-fifteen-hour days with one or no days off, it can be easy to fall into the habit of focusing solely on problem solving. For you, it likely feels as though you are just focusing on what needs to get done, but to the people who work for you, it may look as though you are simply being overly critical. They may feel as though you are taking your work stress out on them or that you’re not acknowledging that they too are busy and stressed.

While problem solving is an important part of running a department, it is critical to your relationship with your employees that it is not the only part you focus on. Don’t leave the appreciation to the end of the semester events only. Stop in the middle of tasks like key organizing or move-in and tell your employees that you appreciate their work even more during these high-volume times. Stop by Starbucks or Dunkin and grab a few extra cups for your employees who are as exhausted as you are. Take over the check-in line and tell your RAs to go stretch or meditate for 10 minutes. Tell them and show them that they are appreciated and they will continue to perform the best of their abilities for you!

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