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Guest Opinion: Three reasons to keep a ‘kudos’ file


By Brianne Sanchez | Program officer, Principal Foundation

Whether you store them in a physical file, an Outlook folder or in the cloud – having a place to keep ‘kudos’ messages of praise for a job well done is a helpful practice for women in the workforce. Dip into the file now and then. Those words can be a buoy when you feel yourself burning out, when you’ve had a challenging week, or when you’re paralyzed by Imposter Syndrome.

Keeping a kudos folder is a practice I’ve embraced because I’ve found it helps with motivation, documentation and inspiration for the work I do.

Motivation: Employers and even teams can weave opportunities for sharing constructive compliments into informal recognition systems. 

When I worked at Des Moines University, we had a “Spotlight” system that encouraged employees to send quarterly kudos messages to colleagues who went above and beyond to serve the goals of the organization. The spotlight messages arrived immediately as e-mails to the employee and her supervisor, and later as coupons that could be redeemed at the cafeteria or bookstore. 

There’s a motivation factor when you hear you’re making a difference for your peers. Receiving or sending a spotlight message can be a nice little morale boost. (In my experience, the nicest message came from a colleague who overheard some students talking about how I’d helped them. I was so touched that he took the time to tell me about that secondhand, and it was a motivation to continue to keep my door open to students.)

Documentation: The self-assessment portion of an annual performance review can feel daunting or even downright awkward. One Harvard Business Review article about gender bias corrupting performance reviews suggests that companies invest in systems that crowd source and continually collect data about the performance of people and teams to yield better insights. 

If your company isn’t assessing your work based on stakeholder feedback, keeping a kudos file can help. Come review time, look at those e-mails and cards and pull quotes from clients and colleagues as testimonials to your communication skills, or project management acumen. You don’t feel like you’re tooting your own horn and have evidence of your impact. 

Inspiration: Words of affirmation don’t serve as my primary “love language,” but whenever I receive a handwritten note or e-mail recognizing my skills or the impact of our relationship, I remember how meaningful those words can be. I’ve tried to make more of an effort to reach out to the women in my professional circle whose work I admire and send a card or message to that effect. 

Take a few minutes to send a note outside of a “thank you” or “congratulations” on a recognition. Simply showing someone you see her and appreciate her can be a great exercise for recognizing role models.

This week, try to save a message that helped you know your work was on track – and send one to someone in your professional circle who truly stands out.

Brianne Sanchez is a community engagement professional, freelance writer and mother of two who considers herself an Iowan by Choice. Contact her via email.

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