Getting Recognition Wrong

Think back on your career. Have you ever received too much recognition for the good work you have done? Have you provided too much recognition for the good work of others?

The answer to both questions is probably “NO.” Experience tells us that providing too much recognition isn’t an issue for most leaders.

The statistics support that conclusion. While 81 percent of companies reported having a formal recognition program, 82 percent of employees don’t think they’re recognized for their work as often as they deserve.

Obviously, many leaders are getting it wrong. Here are four ways that might be happening.

Problem #1: Confusing a positive environment with recognition. During a 360-degree feedback assessment, my administrative assistant indicated that I did not provide adequate recognition. I was shocked. Hadn’t she noticed the “Thank You” on every piece of work she produced? Didn’t she remember the encouragement on her personal growth and development plans? Didn’t she appreciate the flexibility she had with her time?

Of course she did, and she was grateful to work in a positive environment. But that wasn’t recognition. Recognition would have been letting her know that she did a great job on a difficult project or even better, providing something of value to her in response to that performance.

Here is the news: Your employees want to work in a positive environment. That, however, isn’t the same as providing recognition. Your employees know it and want you to do the same.

Problem #2: Confusing fun and games at an off-site with recognition. Off-site meetings can be very beneficial to your group’s success. And most – or at least some – of your team really enjoys playing those team building games. Who wouldn’t salivate over the opportunity to fire a paint ball gun at the person who consistently microwaves salmon and brings it to the desk to eat?

From your staff’s point of view, off-site meetings can also be a pain. They involve arranging child care, pet care, or elder care. They cause stress from wondering how I’ll compete in the latest version of the corporate Olympics or get along with an assigned roommate who probably snores.

Here is the news:
Off-site meetings can be recognition if it is a reward that is earned and treated as such. The standard off-site working meeting is just that … work regardless of the games you play.

Problem #3: Confusing reward and recognition. The old saying goes, “Behavior that is rewarded is repeated.” No wait. Its behavior that is recognized is repeated. Both are correct, and it contributes to the problem.

We devalue the impact of recognition when we believe that tangible rewards are the only things that work. That might be true for some people. But, how many more coffee mugs, belt buckles, certificates, or coolers with the company logo on them do you need?

Here is the news: Recognition doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Rewards are nice, but sincere, specific, and individual recognition from a respected leader can be much more meaningful.

Problem #4: Failing to tie recognition to performance that delivers results.
This one can actually kill your company rather than merely hurt it.

There is a persistent perception that the Millennial generation requires a continuous stream of recognition to keep them engaged.

It’s true that there are those who have been told that they are great since birth. Characterizing an entire generation by the actions of the minority is a mistake, however. An even bigger blunder is assuming that you must provide recognition for the sake of recognition.

Here is the news: Your organization can’t compete if people are recognized for mediocre performance. Consider starting a “meaningless recognition withdrawal program” if you have adopted the philosophy that all recognition is good recognition.

Be actively involved in coaching and mentoring your team about the importance of producing real results. Recognize often, but be relentless about encouraging performance and behavior that contribute to your on-going success. It will take considerably more of your time. Get used to it and embrace it. It is a mistake you can’t afford to make.

Randy Pennington is an award-winning author, speaker, and leading authority on helping organizations achieve positive results in a world of accelerating change. To bring Randy to your organization or event, visit www.penningtongroup.com , email info@penningtongroup.com, or call 972.980.9857.

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