You might think paying a fair salary, providing good working conditions, and offering vacation time would be enough to satisfy your employees. Not so. They want those rewards, of course, and more. However, they also want promotional opportunities and to be treated with respect.

Employees want to feel valued. It’s about feeling part of a winning team and less like a bit player. If they are marginalised, their contributions ignored, or their voices not heard, then the problem isn’t just theirs – it’s yours too.

A little consideration and the right word, or words, can go a long way towards building a strong relationship and motivating an otherwise disgruntled employee. Your choice of words will define you, so make sure they don’t alienate people.

“Employees engage with employers and brands when they’re treated as humans worthy of respect” – Meghan M Biro

Or, as Jean Paul Sartre said more succinctly,

“Words are like loaded pistols.”

If an employee offers to take on a task, or works through lunch or late on a project, saying this word is one way of showing you are grateful. Of course, a monetary reward might follow too, but at the very least you are showing their actions matter to you. It’s always nice to be appreciated.

This says the employee has really excelled. It conveys your delight at the outcome and how grateful you are. It may seem like an overused and even cliched word these days, but it has lost little of its powerful affirmation. Say it like you mean it, though. According to John Willard “Bill” Marriott Jr., the executive chairman and former CEO of Marriott, these are the four most important words in the English language. He used them to build teams and relationships, empowering workers to present their own thoughts and including them in the process. According to an interview he gave to the New York Times you should also “listen to your people and learn”.

If your employees are struggling to meet a target, don’t start berating them. It may be that they need more time or resources. If they are actionable then deliver. It will ensure the task is completed on time and demonstrate that you are there for your employees.

If someone makes a great idea or suggestion, then acknowledge it. Don’t just nod when the employee comes up with a good idea, say these two magic words. By doing so, you are not only making him/her feel better, but also showing others that you welcome their thoughts and are open to them. It creates a positive environment where ideas and creativity are nurtured.

So, you forgot to deliver on a commitment to an employee. Perhaps it was a scheduled one-to-one meeting or a pay rise. Saying ‘sorry’ is an open admission that you didn’t deliver, and it was a mistake you intend to rectify. Heck, it also lets the employee know you are human after all. Just don’t repeat the error or you’ll have lost his/her trust.

Everyone makes a mistake. CEOs are just as liable to make one as their employees. It may have been failing to meet a deadline, deliver a report, or complete a task. The hope – and expectation – is that lessons will be learned and the error won’t be repeated. Chat to the employee about it, see how it can be rectified, and then repeat the mantra, “You’ve learned from your mistake, now let’s move on.”

Those words are a mixture of recognition of the mistake and forgiveness, plus there’s a nice positive spin at the end. Remember, shouting at your employee will produce only one outcome, and leave a bad taste for both sides.

A kind word will deliver results and create a team of happy workers who know they are valued and appreciated. They feel part of a team and highly motivated. Just sprinkle your conversation with the right words and savour the results.