What does acknowledgment mean?

When we place an order online, we receive an email back from the supplier: an order acknowledgment. This reassures us that they’ve received our order and will act upon it.

If you turn to the back of a book, you’ll often find a section in which the author thanks the editor, the photographer, the chap who supplied the ‘super-fresh asparagus for the recipe on page 49’, family and friends. That page is often headed ‘Acknowledgments’. The root of the word ‘acknowledge’ is thought to be a Middle English word meaning ‘to recognise’: so a supplier ‘recognises’ our order and the author ‘recognises’ the contribution of others to his creation.

Many businesses use the once a year appraisal system. The system I’m familiar with requires the appraisee to score and comment on past objectives and write a paragraph of general comments summing up the year. A colleague and I were discussing this general comments section. ‘I want it to cover all the stuff that’s not part of my objectives, the things I do that no-one really notices unless they don’t happen. I want to bring them to my boss’s attention so she does notice’ explained Sophie.

It sounds to me that Sophie’s looking for acknowledgment too. We can’t be sure whether Sophie’s boss is noticing all those extras that Sophie feels she adds – we can be sure that Sophie doesn’t feel like they’re noticed.

You’re unlikely to send an email saying ‘hey, how about a bit of acknowledgment for all that useful stuff I do?’ unless you have a very open and informal relationship with your manager. As a coach, I know that I can only coach my client, not my client’s colleague or manager or partner. So if you’re reading this thinking ‘how can I get more acknowledgment?’, I don’t have an answer for you.

I do have a challenge though: how can you give more acknowledgment? If you manage a team, how often do you make a point of publicly recognising great work amongst your staff? If your manager goes out of her way to sort out an issue for you, do you make a point of thanking her or do you assume it’s just her job to do that? If a colleague really pulls out all the stops to make your project a success, do you make sure his manager hears about it?

Today’s pebble for your thoughts: Who will you acknowledge this week and how will you do so?

I’d love to hear how it goes,


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we could work together?

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