An illustration of a rainbow-coloured honey badger with “TDL” written on its belly. It’s holding a little tree in its hand.
Hi there

Well, we’re almost at the end of January. How are we doing? 

Personally, I’m still emerging from the bleary twilight of the Post-Holiday Return to Reality. Perhaps it’s because the city where I am based has only seen about two sunny days since 2023 began; perhaps it’s because my body is still readjusting to a normal-person diet, instead of one that is 90% dessert. Either way, the transition into the new year has transformed me from the picture of holiday cheer into a poor simulacrum of a person, running on fumes and microwaved coffee. 

I was thinking about the various factors that contribute to the vastly different vibes of December and January, and one, in particular, stood out to me: the abrupt drop in overall gratefulness. The last several weeks of the calendar year are so focused on feeling thankful for what we have, on counting our blessings, on marinating in that contentment. But when the holidays end, we tend to leave all that gratitude behind us — even though research has shown how much this feeling can support our well-being

Recognition is important year-round — especially in the workplace. In today’s newsletter, we’re digging into the science of why a little appreciation goes such a long way, and sharing some tips for how to embed it into your own work life. Bonus: a little case study from here at TDL. 

Until next time,

Katie and the super appreciative team @ TDL

Big thanks to Sarah Chudleigh for her help researching and writing this newsletter.

📧 Feeling under-appreciated? We would appreciate you soooo much if you signed up for the TDL newsletter. Subscribe here.

Today’s topics 👀

💝 Viewpoints: A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way
🦡 Field Notes: Badgers and Emojis and Trees, Oh My

🕯️ Deep Dive: Expanding Your Recognition Rituals


💝 A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way 

Recognition helps us help others. One study found that employees who were thanked for their assistance not only had stronger feelings of self-efficacy and social worth, but were more likely to engage in prosocial behavior in the workplace.

Recognition translates into better physical health. Research shows that expressing gratitude for employees leads to less stress, fewer health complaints, and even fewer sick days.

Recognition protects against high turnover. A survey spanning workers in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia found that 44% of individuals planning to leave their jobs did so due to lack of recognition in their current workplace.

Recognition doesn’t just have to come from the boss. Not only does recognition from peers support well-being, one study found that it’s actually twice as impactful as recognition from supervisors.

In many orgs, recognition is lacking. Nearly half of employees say they don’t receive recognition frequently enough, and 1 in 3 say recognition is not given in a timely fashion. 

🦡 FIELD NOTES: Badgers and Emojis and Trees, Oh My

When perusing the TDL Slack workspace, it’s not uncommon to come across messages like the following: “Please badger Rachel for her great work.” “I want to give this a thousand badgers.” “Monty deserves so many badgers for his speed on this.”

As you may have guessed, we have our own definition of the verb “to badger” (i.e. we are not advocating for the mass harassment of our fellow employees). As part of an internal initiative to boost recognition, we set up a custom emoji — a rainbow-colored honey badger — to signal intense appreciation.

When a TDLer does something awesome, they are showered with badger emojis. That might mean they knocked it out of the park on a project they’re helping with. It could also mean they went out of their way to support a colleague, or that they otherwise exhibited SPICE.

Whatever the occasion, the honey badger has become a beloved symbol at TDL. And as an extra bonus, we found a way to tie this ritual into our wider social mission: for every badger awarded, we vowed to plant one tree. This week, we purchased our first round of trees to put in the ground, amounting to 2,928 saplings. We partnered with Trees for the Future, whose work is helping to reforest land across sub-Saharan Africa while also providing a source of income to farming families in need. 

Crater Lake, in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda.
Deep Dive
🕯️ Expanding Your Recognition Rituals

Management Professor Jean-Pierre Brun at Laval University identifies 4 key recognition practices in the literature. The first is personal recognition: personalized messages to celebrate life events, or support employees in addressing their personal needs, go a long way in fulfilling workers’ desire to be recognized as fully fledged individuals.

The second is recognition of work practices — acknowledging peers’ performance at work. This can include highlighting contributions at team meetings or teamwork recognition ceremonies (even for 5 minutes at the end of a project!).

Recognition of job dedication rewards employees for their commitment to their job or workplace. Try shouting out your colleague who’s been working overtime to reach a deadline, or organizing leisure activities after a hectic period.

The most common type is recognition of results: celebrating after a product or result has been achieved. Take it up a notch by giving small gifts to honor career milestones, sharing team successes with the wider company, or awarding incentive bonuses, plaques, or certificates for big accomplishments.

A pie chart showing “Most important drivers of great work.” Recognition is the biggest slice, at 37%.

Recognition is the most powerful driver of work performance. Data from O.C. Tanner, retrieved from Great Place to Work.

Extrinsic Incentive Bias
Reward and incentive programs often assume that their beneficiaries are motivated by external rewards — more money, more time off, a flashier title. But as the science behind workplace recognition shows, internal rewards (like the feeling of a job well done) are incredibly powerful. Check out the TDL website to learn why we fixate on material rewards.
Opportunities in behavioral science

TDL is hiring! We’re hiring for a number of positions, both remote and based in our Montreal office. Some open roles include:

  • • Associate Project Leader
  • • UX Designer
  • • Senior UX Designer
  • • Research Analyst

Find out more by visiting our careers portal.

Want to have your voice heard? We'd love to hear from you. Reply to this email to share your thoughts, feedback, and questions with the TDL team.

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