My 5-year-old niece asked: ‘Hey, what are those stickers on your laptop?’ She had discovered the, 2 cents a piece, childish stickers on the cover of my very professional Macbook Pro. ‘Oh, my colleagues gave me those because I did some things well!’ She immediately got it: ‘Oh wow, then you did six things well already!’
Do you remember the stickers? The ones you got for doing a good job, back in primary school? When I was a little child it was something I looked forward to. Every sticker made me happy. Receiving a sticker for my work gave me confidence and joy; I was proud, I smiled all day. It even made me want to do more, next time at least as well!
Not serious enough, for the real world of the grown up?
Are stickers only for children? Is it too childish, not serious enough, for the real world of the grown up? This would of course never work in the real world called ‘the office’. Or at least I thought so.
I am a nerd. At our office they poke fun at me when they call me that. Be it because I dwell on wonderful math, a brilliant solution or a far fetched word joke. I know most of my colleagues will never share my love for those things. Yet I wanted them to know I appreciated their effort to learn useful, and often necessary, nerd skills.
So, I started to verbally hand out ‘nerd stickers’. Those recognize and reward progress in learning or application of computer skills. I thought I was being ridiculous, although I very sincerely meant the recognition and reward part. No one would want a sticker. We are grown ups, right?
Less talking, more stickering!
Then one of my co-workers said: ‘Okay, you have promised me over 20 stickers now. Less talking, more stickering!’ Wait, what?! Ah well, I went out to find ‘nerd stickers’. Couldn’t find any. Stumbled across a kids sticker sale. Bought them and started handing them out. Expecting nothing but: ‘Grow up, you! I was obviously kidding!’
It didn’t play out like that. Everybody liked the stickers. Okay, everybody but one person. Our Media & Technology Expert. He does not want to receive nerd stickers. But he most certainly does like to hand them out, and does so in a very serious fashion.
Means with a meaning
Today we hand out stickers still. And I think I get it. The stickers are not that important, they are just means, means with a meaning. They say: ‘Well done! I am proud of you.’
Remember that colleague who said I owed her over 20 stickers? She was about to turn ‘a certain age’ and the jokingly said that she was working so very hard to get all those stickers before that certain age milestone. So on the last day before that, another colleague and I went on a secret mission…
Happiness that sticks science
What does science say about our stickers? Research by Margaret Greenberg and Senia Maymin shows providing recognition and appreciation can improve productivity by 30 percent! Founder of Positive Psychology Martin Seligman points out in his book Flourish what people need to… flourish: Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning(fulness) and Achievements (PERMA, in short). One simple sticker can cover all of that. As it simply says ‘Well done, we value your contributions to our common goal!’ And I confess: every sticker I get, and hand out, increases my happiness.
P.S. In our next blog we will explain how we found a way to have simple stickers improve not only productivity and morale, but also growth.