A poll of employee attitudes in 14 countries has ranked Singapore bottom in terms of overall workplace happiness. The results place Singapore last in three major areas — Singaporeans least enjoy going to work, are the least loyal and have the least supportive workplaces.

Adding weight and significance to the last point, another recent poll on Singapore showed that of the top three things that people wanted at work, recognition and praise came in second, ahead of money and benefits.

Businesswoman Mary Kay Ash summarised the situation perfectly: “There are two things people want more than sex and money — recognition and praise.”

Recognition and praise are indeed high-octane fuel. When you receive a genuine compliment, it makes you want to go the extra mile for the person who bestowed the compliment.

If this were not important to you, you would not treasure all the mementos of awards, plaques, appreciative notes and e-mails that you have received over the years.

Here are tips on how to make people feel more appreciated:

* Pay attention to people with common courtesy. Say “Good morning”. Ask people how their weekend turned out. Ask about other people’s children.

* Listen to what your co-workers, peers and staff members have to say. Give your full attention to the person seeking your attention. You make people feel special when you listen to them without being distracted.

* Use powerful, positive language in your interaction with others. Say “please” and “thank you” and “you're doing a good job”. Say “We couldn’t have accomplished the goal without you”. Powerful, positive recognition makes people feel important.

* Put praise in writing. A “thank you” note to the employee magnifies the impact of the recognition.

* Keep your commitments to staff members. Never promise that which you may not be able to deliver. Don’t do it unless you know you can keep your promise.

* Give employees public credit for contributions. The rule is “praise in public; criticise in private”.

Genuine appreciation is a key factor in your relationship with your staff yet many well-meaning and otherwise caring managers are reluctant to express their appreciation of others’ talents and contributions.

Some people find giving praise a very difficult thing to do publicly and even harder privately. If you have difficulty praising others, analyse the root causes.

Sometimes, withholding praise is simply due to a lack of time. Praise has a limited “best before” date. Don’t delay its expression or wait until performance review time — when you see something that is worthy of applauding, do so promptly.

Make your words memorable being specific about the achievement. Not many people remember the perfunctory “job well done”, but they would remember someone who tells them “this was pure genius” or “I would have missed this if you hadn't picked it up”. The praise does not have to be elaborate; it just needs to be genuine.

Practise these three steps to give praise and recognition successfully:

* Describe specifically the achievement or improvement. The employee needs to know exactly what he is being praised for. Avoid vague phrases like “You’ve made a lot of progress”.

Instead, say: “Since our meeting last month about filing your reports, I have seen that you’ve cleared the backlog and are up to date at the end of each day.”

* Explain why this is important to you, the team or the company. This emphasises the value of what the employee has done and makes the praise more effective.

* Give appropriate praise or recognition and thank the person. This may be a simple “Thank you”, or in the form of further recognition such as a note in the file or a commendation.

These simple steps all contribute in their own way to building a more supportive workplace that employees value so highly.