Validation Exchange Theory – Organizational Currency


Validation Exchange:

  • the practice of a leader checking or proving the validity or accuracy of something in exchange for the recognition or affirmation that a worker, their efforts, their feelings, or opinions are valid or valued.

Validation Exchange can be an amazing tool for communication, goal traction, engagement, performance management, quality control, and relationship/team building (among others).

An Example of Validation Exchange in Play:

A leader asks a worker to put together a report on (X, Y, and Z) and have that report available before the end of the day. When the worker provides the requested report, the leader then reviews the report alongside the worker (in a one-on-one setting if possible). Doing so ensures that the report fulfills the requirements of the need and provides an opportunity for alterations, critique, and an opportunity to ask clarifying questions before using the report for its intended purpose. The leader then provides authentic validation for the work and efforts on the report with a “job well done” or some other form of kudos. If time allows, it can also provide an opportunity for open dialogue.

The Theory Behind It

  • The desire for approval and validation is a central theme of the human experience.
  • Recognizing a worker’s efforts in a meaningful way is an important part of a leader’s position that also fosters the engagement of the worker.
  • Leaders need engaged followers in their organization, and leaders are a central component of that engagement. However, such engagement is statistically rare, as less than one-third of Americans say they are engaged in their jobs in any given year.

Validation Exchange seeks to improve this by increasing both actual and perceptual approachability and engagement through authentic and tangible interactions. Additionally, it demonstrates appreciation and fosters mutual respect. This will ultimately breed leader and organizational loyalty due to the natural increase in involvement, trust, and support.


Validation Exchange is to be viewed as “organizational currency” where each transaction requires a product/service and some form of “payment” outside standard wages. So when a worker presents a product or service for “delivery,” the leader then “pays” for it through Validation Exchange.

As demonstrated by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, humans need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance among social groups, including their co-workers and professional organizations. However, it is important to note that when someone is unhappy at work (or engaged), that feeling doesn’t stop at the door of their job. This tends to compound over time and directly and negatively impacts the worker’s overall well-being as that stress begins to infect their home and social life.

Eventually, the worker dreads coming to work. This often equates to poor performance and the eventual removal of the worker – either voluntarily or via termination. This is costly from both the workers’ and the organization’s points of view.

Validation Exchange is a simple practice that aims to stop these problems by fulfilling the stated needs of the worker, leader, and organization in a meaningful way. Ultimately, Validation Exchange begins a new cycle that helps the worker better fulfill the vision of the stated requirement and organization while allowing the worker to go home feeling accomplished, valued, and more engaged. At the same time, it allows leaders to spend some much-needed time with their workers while ensuring quality control and continual improvement of the work. This equates to better overall organizational performance and work experience up and down the organizational ladder.

The additional benefits potentially exceed the scope of this analysis.

This theory works great in conjunction with the GF Proposal Model and the Three-Part Communication Model.

This is currently a working theory in review.

Use of this work is permitted with proper citation.

  • In Text: (Robertson, 2019)
  • Bibliography: Robertson, D. (2019). Validation Exchange Theory. [online] DMR Publications. Available at: [Accessed Date].
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