Do you want to be recognised?

Picture the scene. It’s the end of a very long day. You have worked your butt off to get the task in hand finished and not only is it finished, it’s brilliant! It’s all they asked for and more. It’s under-budget, it’s on time and frankly, it’s a miracle that you got it done. You’re worn out but so pleased with how it’s all gone.

What would you like to happen next?

You may not be expecting a ticker tape parade but you might quite like someone to at least notice what you’ve achieved. Lowell Milken, the American pioneer of education reform, had this to say about recognition:

‘The power of recognition is one of the strongest forces for stimulating human and social action.’

That may be so. The topic of recognition is one which often comes up in coaching sessions with my clients. In a recent conversation, John (not his real name) and I were talking about what might prevent people giving recognition when it’s due.

What stops us giving due recognition?


John identified four obstacles to recognition: some of which he’d noticed in himself, some of which he’d seen in others –

Not noticing someone’s contribution in the first place

If you’re a manager of a large team, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly who did what. John realised he needs to take time to engage with his team to ensure he’s aware of each individual’s contribution rather than making assumptions.

Not being specific enough

Leading on from his first point, John noted that a general ‘good job!’ is almost worse than no recognition at all. Knowing who did what allows him to offer specific praise to the individual with the result that the individual knows that she has been noticed and her contribution acknowledged.

Not wishing to sound corny or fake

John talked about how awkward he’d felt in the past when he’d been recognised in public – in team meetings or even at a company conference. I asked him how he’d prefer to be recognised and whether he knew how the various members of his team might like to receive praise. John commented that maybe that ‘corny’ feeling wouldn’t necessarily apply to everyone: ‘some of the team are really extroverted and love public praise so they wouldn’t find it fake at all; for the others, I need to come up with ways to praise them that are more suited to their personalities. I had a handwritten thank you note once from the CFO that I’ve kept for years.’

Isn’t it enough that we pay them a salary?

John remembered a conversation he’d had with a fellow manager before a company meeting at which a few key workers were going to be publicly honoured for the value they added.

‘I just don’t get it,’ said the other manager, ‘we pay them a good salary. Isn’t that enough? Why do we have to go through all this rigmarole?’

We’ve all metaphorically walked a little taller when we’ve been given some positive feedback, haven’t we? That would suggest that how we feel about our work isn’t just governed by how we feel about our salary. An employee who feels valued by their employer feels engaged with their employer and a company with high levels of employee engagement is a more successful company.

However, John pointed out that it’s not just about making the company more successful: it’s about the importance of expressing gratitude to others for the difference they make, whether that’s in the office or out there in the real world.

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: are you good at giving praise and recognition where it’s due?

What do you think?

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 can work together?

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