Making sure your employees feel validated is one of the most important things you can do to increase engagement in your workplace.

Validation is the unconditional acknowledgment of an individual’s presence and intrinsic value as a human being. It is not dependent on task accomplishment. It is a process of predictable, consistent, and safe interactions that elevates the quality of relationships between individuals, the team, and other employees. It requires managers and leaders to slow down, lean in, and authentically care, listen, and respond from the heart. Tone of voice, facial expressions, direct eye contact, and being present in the moment all contribute to effective validation.

The process of valuing others is not contingent on specific achievements or lack thereof. People need to feel appreciated simply because they exist, because they are human beings. We all wake up every day in search of validation – the need to know, “Am I noticed and valued?” We look for validation from our spouse, parents, friends, and colleagues. When we get it, we immediately feel more connected and innately safer. We do this intrinsically for each other as social animals, hardwired to recognize the presence (and significance) of the other. It is perhaps the most fundamental part of any relationship.

Many managers, and certainly traditional management theories, ignore this form of communication, considering it is so inconsequential that it doesn’t even merit a mention, when in fact it should be a primary responsibility of every leader.

The Importance of Recurring Validation

Nothing should be more second nature to a leader than acknowledging and recognizing the presence of others. Validation needs to be habitual because its repetition increases its veracity – how it is believed by the recipient. It should also be given with a positive connotation (accompanied by a smile and eye contact, for example) to be most effective. These interactions do not require much from a manager other than consistency and predictability.

In my seminars, managers identify conversational topics that can serve as great points of validation for their employees. Here are some primary themes that have emerged in our workshops: Managers can ask about weekend activities and family, offer a simple smile and “hello,” practice active listening, discuss non-work-related topics, check in at the end of the day with a “have a good evening,” and give high fives. These simple gestures allow managers to connect with their team members on a personal level and go a long way in creating a healthy culture of validation.

Focus on Your Message When Validating Employees

In order for this communication to come across as sincere, it’s important to pay attention to how you’re validating, not just what you’re saying. Pay attention to these three components of your message:

  • Word choice (specific and clear)
  • Body language (smiling, good eye contact)
  • Voice tone (warm tone, not rushed)

Effective validation should be:

  • Natural
  • Spontaneous
  • Sincere
  • Habitual
  • Relational
  • Unconditional
  • Informal
  • Frequent

Here are some helpful phrases to let others know they are valued:

  • How were the soccer games this weekend?
  • Tell me about your vacation!
  • How can I help you today?
  • What are you doing this weekend?
  • Did you enjoy the concert you went to last night?

Creating a high-performance culture, where employees look forward to coming to work and are engaged when they get there, begins with the simple act of being noticed and valued.

Key Takeaways

  • Validation is not earned. Validation is given because we’re all human and deserve validation.
  • Managers should validate daily.
  • Be clear, use a warm tone, and give eye contact when providing validation to your employees.