Main Street the Business to Business Magazine

Workplace Relationships - by Dr. Bill Austin


Growing up in Tennessee, I heard my share of far-fetched stories about fishing and hunting. One such story was about Clyde and Marvin, two hunters who were very proud of their hunting dogs.

There was a lot of bragging going on as to who had the best dog. One day Clyde invited Marvin to go duck hunting. Clyde went on to announce that he had a new hunting dog and wanted to try him out.

As they sat in the boat with the new dog, a flock of ducks flew over. Marvin shot a duck that fell in the water about 100 yards from their boat. "You want to move the boat over to where the duck is?" Marvin asked. Excitedly Clyde said, "No! Let my dog get it." The dog jumped out of the boat and ran on top of the water, picked up the duck and ran back on top of the water, and dropped the duck into the boat. Clyde looked at Marvin who seemed unimpressed.

This happened several times. Marvin still did not seem to notice or say anything. Finally, Clyde could not stand it any longer so he asked, "Say, Marvin, have you noticed anything different about my dog?" Marvin replied, "Yeah, but I didn’t want to say anything. Your dog can’t swim, can he?"

Some organizations and businesses experience back biting, jealousy, gossip, and competition among their people. There are probably several reasons, but one important reason is a lack of expressed appreciation. This is true in a workplace where there is a lot of competition with our colleagues. We may be in competition to get more recognition than our colleagues. Studies have shown that the employees need a lot more recognition and affirmation from their employers than people realize.

We are saying to another person,
"It means a lot to me what you did or said."
We shouldn’t have to walk on water
to receive acknowledgement!

Some people would never acknowledge our accomplishments or gifts even if we had walked on water. Not acknowledging and encouraging those who work for them is a huge mistake. Some employers are the same people who say, "You will not hear from me unless you are doing something I do not like."

It is so demoralizing to work very hard on a project and after presenting it, there is no response. There is not a negative or positive comment. We want to know that what we did was meaningful to others. Was it of value? Was the material what you had in mind? To have them say nothing is painful. It is helpful for our growth to get some feedback. Encouraging feedback can be a great motivator.

Perhaps we would be wise to think of praise with such words such as "encouraging," "acknowledging," "thank you," and "valuing." We are saying to another person, "It means a lot to me what you did or said." We shouldn’t have to walk on water to receive acknowledgement!

Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700

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