How to Celebrate Success at Work

Tips About How to Celebrate Success as an Individual and as a Team

You can celebrate success at work in large and small ways that help employees feel gratitude and success.
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Consciously, you know that you need to celebrate success at work. Celebration breeds more success and adds to the satisfaction you experience when you take note of your accomplishments in the workplace.

For example, when a baby learns to walk, everyone gathers around and claps and cheers for every step the baby takes—even when half of them result in the baby plopping to the floor. People celebrate the steps and the baby's drive to try again. You expect a lot of failure in the process, but that doesn’t stop the celebration of every success along the way.

But, somewhere along the line, people begin to forget to celebrate success. Or maybe they don’t forget—maybe they actively choose not to celebrate success because it seems silly or unnecessary, or the success isn’t big enough.

Reward the Small Successes

When you land the $3 million contract, of course, you celebrate. But, what about the $300 one time customer? And what about getting the weekly report done early?

You don’t want to throw a party with balloons and cake each time the weekly report goes out, or the customer calls are answered within two rings. The celebration would soon become tedious, and people would avoid succeeding in order to avoid embarrassment. Or, people would become immune to the joy of celebration because of its predictability and feelings of entitlement.

But, you do need to celebrate some little things. Just like the baby who gets claps and cheers for their first few steps but not for every step they ever take, you need to celebrate the first successes.

So, when you hire a new employee you celebrate the small accomplishments. The first time they finish a transaction on their own? Point out their success, “Great job. You did everything exactly right.” The first presentation, the first report, the first little success gets celebrated.

Your voice of encouragement tells the new employee that she’s on the right track. Often, when you start a new job, you’re not quite sure what the expectations are, so celebrating little successes helps a new employee know that she’s doing fine.

Everyone Make Mistakes

Is a baby’s first step the same as a gold medalist sprinter's gait when they run the 100-meter dash? Of course not, but you still reward them. Point out the good and correct the bad.

Make sure that you don’t try to force a feedback sandwich—where you’re making up positive things to sandwich the hard feedback you need to give. People see through that formula and learn to ignore your praise because anytime they receive praise, they know it's a prelude to criticism.

But, if you’re sincere in your praise and helpful with your hard feedback, this can result in an employee who learns what she needs to know and makes changes when necessary.

Celebrating Group Success at Work

In the business world, it’s often a team that creates a successful outcome, even if just one person’s name is on the project. Think about it—when you put together that great sales presentation that landed the big client, did you do it all by yourself?

Chances are, you didn’t. You may have given the presentation, but who designed the product, gathered the data, did the testing, developed the marketing plan, and wrote up the sales contract? It probably wasn’t you—it was a whole team of contributing employees.

While most accomplishments in the workplace are a group success, only the salesperson gets the commission for landing the new client. That’s fair because that’s how the compensation structure is set and everyone signs up for that, but that doesn’t mean that the whole team shouldn’t celebrate the success.

Simply acknowledge that everyone on the team contributed to this success and that you need their continuing hard work to achieve true success—a long time happy customer.

Don’t forget that the person who makes the presentation and gets the credit is often not the person who did the work behind the presentation. Sometimes, managers even steal credit for work that their team did. This is demoralizing and likely to result in unhappy employees. Give credit where credit is due.

How Do You Celebrate Success in the Workplace?

While you know you need to praise successes, sometimes the how is elusive. While celebrations need to reflect your company culture and the degree and contribution of the success, these ideas will help get you started celebrating success at work.

  • Use Verbal Praise: Sometimes just saying “Thank you. You did a great job.” is enough. Offering this praise in a public setting enhances the celebration and the employee's feeling of recognition. Make your praise specific and as timely as possible. Saying, “Good job with that customer last week” is nice, but what customer are you talking about? Instead, if you can’t say it at the moment, try to give details, “Do you remember that customer who complained about the thread count in the sheets? You did a great job helping her, ultimately getting her to make a purchase”
  • Provide Written Praise: A nice email to the individual can go a long way. A nice email to the whole group praising that employee's success can go even further. An email to an entire team that celebrates their success is amazingly effective in influencing future employee behavior and contributions
  • Hold a Celebration Party or Event: For bigger successes, a party is often appropriate. You don't have to provide an open bar and live entertainment kind of party, but a “Hey everyone, great job on the year-end reports. I know it was a long slog, and we had to work a lot of overtime to get them done accurately on time, but we did it. So, on Friday, we’re having a celebratory lunch. Thanks a lot for your hard work.” Of course, for super big achievements, a super big party could also be an appropriate celebration. For smaller achievements, that are still worth noting, provide pizza and salad in the break room
  • Give Employees a Bonus: Money talks and money celebrates. Many companies have year-end bonuses that are dependent on overall company success and individual success. Those are great, but sometimes the bonuses are so detached from the actual work that they don’t seem like a celebration. Often, they become expectations, which means that they cease being a celebration at all and become a part of expected compensation—like every paycheck. Consider providing smaller bonuses in the year for a big success. Again, make sure to include the whole team

Remember to adjust how you celebrate to fit your company culture. If you always have lunch on Fridays, a celebratory lunch won’t mean as much as it would in a company that doesn’t provide regular food. A $50 bonus for a grocery cashier is a nice celebration. The same $50 to a senior director won’t be as appreciated.

Overall, when you celebrate success at work, you encourage your employees to keep performing at a high level. You should always correct mistakes and give tough feedback, but reward the successes, and you’ll get receive more success.