• Ryan Sweeney

Workplace recognition. Do we need it? How and what is given? Is it really that important?


Ask the old timers and they may chuckle and smirk, then tell you that you go out there do your job and if you don’t hear anything from anybody, then you know it is a job well done. So are we softer today? Well maybe that is one way of looking it, but perhaps another is that we have more emotional intelligence and therefore need more recognition in a world driven by lumps of data and in your face social media.


Either way, society has changed, and businesses need to take a look at how their leaders operate and what they have in place for standards in regards to workplace recognition. 69 percent of people say they would work harder if they felt they would be recognized for it. In my experience, often, we are not talking a monetized form of recognition, but rather a simple thank you, a hand shake, a job well done, and perhaps with some personal connection to it (not the mass email!). I can tell you personally I have been on both sides. A few years back I walked around at the end of the year and said thank you to the performers. I extended a hand shake and congratulated them for making a difference. The results were smiles, “thank you's” in return, and “this is most anyone has ever said to me about my performance.”


On the flip side, as I changed out of military command, I had a small celebration. Most of the soldiers I led showed up. Some bought me a drink, but most shook my hand and some of the most experienced added I was the best commander they ever had. That has been a longer lasting impression than any gift. Case studies continue to support the theory. One showed an increase of productivity by 50 percent from employees who had received a message of gratitude in one organization. But perhaps not all benefits are captured by measurables.


Think about the last time you had a bad day at work. Frustrated with a customer, a boss, a peer, whatever. Did you think and think about it? Did you dream about it? Did you stay awake longer or toss and turn most of the night? Now think about the last time you get recognized? Does it put a smile on your face? Do you stay up thinking about it all night? Additionally, are you more likely to help that person out (stick your neck out so to speak) with something, some task, or simply listen more to them? The benefits of recognition extend into physical wellbeing and often has a pay-it-forward mentality with it. The answers to these questions are clear, and they also begin to drive teamwork and collaboration more. In fact, 59 percent of people identify recognition as the number one most important trait to being considered as belonging to an organization.


So I ask the leaders out there, how hard is it to carve 15 minutes a day to walk around and engage your employees and provide some simple recognition to start? After that, you can work with human resources and other leaders on developing a more formal program to monetize rewards for the best of the best. However, I truly believe that a simple thank you and hand shake will push your team further than you can imagine. And at the end of the day, are you willing to trade an hour of your time to increase productivity 50, 60, 70 percent? That is a return on investment I am willing to try!


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