A reduction in force due to an acquisition creates a climate of heightened concern. Even those who are unscathed remain uneasy about the eventual ramifications and wait for the next shoe to fall.

After the downsizing is complete, you can safely assume that some employees still feel threatened and disempowered. These feelings can demoralize them and interfere with the success of your integration. How can you motivate the remaining people to stick with the company and make the merger work if you don’t have extra cash to incent them?

Psychological paychecks.

The intangible rewards you have to offer are limitless. Words of encouragement, compliments, empathy and understanding, a note of appreciation. Stopping to share a cup of coffee or taking the employee to lunch. Bigger titles or special assignments. More decision-making authority. A sincere thank you. Asking about the family, celebrating small victories, soliciting opinions and suggestions. Listening . . . really listening. A mere smile or calling the person by name. A warm handshake or pat on the back. Taking the person into your confidence. Even asking the employee for help—“needing” the person—is gratifying because it validates one’s worth.

Caring, of course, takes time. It also requires you to pay attention to what’s going on with your people. But caring makes a remarkable contribution to team morale. Psychological paychecks have an intrinsic value that hard currency can never touch.

Create a supportive work environment—nurture—and watch it bring out the best in people. Show approval, and see how it warms the group. When you affirm, you empower. People feel safer, valued, and more optimistic. The trust level notches up.

Employees show more creativity and engage their talents more fully. Psychological paychecks also build loyalty and commitment, buy the support of your people, and facilitate “bonding.”

Most managers don’t realize the importance that their acceptance and approval carry with subordinates. As a result, they waste this most precious resource through sheer neglect—like a bank account they never touch, money they never spend, that could be freely used to motivate and improve employees’ quality of work life.

When it comes to handing out psychological paychecks, you should spend extravagantly. Your generosity will be richly rewarded. Make every team member feel special, and you’ll end up with a very special team.

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