6 min read
I've spent my professional career working at both large Fortune 500 organizations down to early stage, family-owned startups, selling into a number of different industries. Not only has this given me a unique perspective for the different departments and leadership styles within companies, but it's also reaffirmed that no matter your position, location or company – we all need (and crave) employee recognition.
I'm sure you’ve read the multitude of posts and research studies that speak to the importance of employee recognition at work – it’s empowering, motivating, and it helps connect you to the purpose and mission of the company. But for many of us, here’s the problem… we’re not getting recognized or rewarded in our jobs. We’re missing out on the appreciation, even when we know we’ve put in just as much (if not more!) effort as those who do get what seems like “more than their fair share of praise” and it doesn’t feel very good.
It’s not like you’re expecting a gold-plated trophy or a parade in your honor — you just want a simple acknowledgement that what you’re doing matters.
I get it - the stats don’t lie. When it comes to recognition, there’s a huge gap between what managers wish or think they’re achieving within their teams, and the daily reality of their employees. Employee engagement survey results frequently reveal comments such as, “I wish my manager would recognize me more often,” and “I did a great job yesterday on the presentation and no one said a thing.” Lack of appreciation is a real pain that employees are trying to convey and HR is seeking to address.
There’s a reason why your manager isn’t recognizing you
Maybe your manager grew up thinking that paying employees was enough of an approval check, so they think anything beyond this is too much. Or they think that recognition requires a grand gesture or public statement, when in fact all it takes is a sincere “thank you” for a specific contribution or “congratulations” for an accomplishment.
It’s not because you don’t deserve to be recognized - it’s likely your manager just doesn’t know why it’s important, and even if they do, they may not know how to do it “properly.” Being a leader isn’t easy, and something that comes up a lot during my client discussions is the fear of getting employee recognition and reward wrong, along with the fear of not coming across as genuine.
Maybe your manager hasn’t received the type of recognition you’re seeking, so they don’t know how or aren’t comfortable giving it. In any of these instances, managers need support and education, not disdain and resentment.
Managers are human too! And even though it may sound odd, this is as good a time as any to take the lead and set an example.
Simple ways to start with employee recognition
While it would be great for all leaders to see the value of employee recognition and formalize it by rolling out a dedicated reward and recognition platform across the whole business, sometimes you’ve just got to start simple. Instead of waiting for change to come from the top down, sometimes you’ve got to start from the grassroots and utilize your influence to slide in from the side.
By recognizing your manager and teammates first and letting them see the benefits of this positive behavior, you might spark the inspiration to get them on the recognition train.
Here are five simple ways you can start building genuine but simple recognition into your daily work life:
- Speak up in a team meeting or use your speaking time as an opportunity to acknowledge a colleague for helping you.
- When a leader demonstrates one of your company values, send them a note or an eCard to show that you’ve noticed and appreciate it.
- After someone leads an exciting meeting or takes on a challenging initiative, send them an email to thank them for their leadership and direction.
- Leave an encouraging note with a favorite snack/treat on your colleague’s desk when they’re having a busy or stressful day.
- Use time in the office kitchen to ask your colleagues what they’re working on – thank them for giving you insight into their area of the business and then thank them for their work.
By modeling the behavior you want to see, over time, you’ll start to see a difference.
Why recognizing someone else is good for YOU
We know that being recognized is fantastic for boosting your motivation and morale, but did you know that giving recognition is just as beneficial! Research shows that practicing gratitude on a regular basis makes us more patient and better able to make sensible decisions. Some studies also show that seeking out and acknowledging the things that you’re thankful for also provides a boost to your physical and mental health.
Studies show that people who practice gratitude are more even-tempered, happier, and feel better supported by others – all traits which make an excellent employee and contribute to a positive workplace culture. We also know that people in high stress careers, such as teachers and nurses, who exemplify gratitude & gratefulness are less likely to burn out. That’s not only good for the employee, but it’s great for the company: a lower turnover rate means recruitment costs stay low, and happy, engaged employees demonstrate higher job performance.
By starting a personal practice of recognizing others (including your leaders!), you’re doing something that will have long-term positive effects on your own wellbeing, and you’re starting a movement that will have a ripple effect on the people you recognize.
When the time comes to introduce the idea of using technology, which streamlines and enables easy reporting on employee recognition and rewards across the business, the push for it will be simple because recognition will be second nature to you and your team. Adding a platform will add momentum to the cultural change you’ve started, amplifying the effectiveness and allowing you to see and improve the results.
Take the first step - show your leaders how it’s done
You might know the phrase “be the change you want to see in the world”. Turns out this is actually a simplified paraphrase of what Mahatma Ghandi actually said in a speech, which was:
If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.
In other words, if you want the environment around you to change, start with what you can control yourself. If all you want is to receive a word of thanks, then start by giving it. Recognize your peers. Recognize your manager. Seek out and acknowledge the things that are done well around you.