People with high resilience value feedback and acknowledgment. They use words of recognition as a yardstick to measure how well (or not) they are performing at work or fulfilling duties at home. Properly given, employee recognition is a powerful motivator.
However, all too often leaders either completely overlook opportunities to give recognition or have tainted their employee relationships with harsh criticism. Acknowledgment of positive contributions is seldom heard. Another error leaders make is to give employee recognition awards to mark doing a job. These programs often become token efforts and leave many deserving and hard working staff out of the recognition sphere. It is thus important to learn how to give recognition at the right time, in the right way.
The Result of Negative Recognition
Consider the following ineffective approach:
Joanne had stayed late to finish a report. When she left completed report on her manager’s desk, the workplace was empty and the night was dark. The next morning her boss called her into his office. He immediately pointed out a number of errors, “Your data is off by five percent. Your conclusion cannot be validated because of this error. You spelled Mr. Herman’s first name incorrectly. Can you get the corrections done in the next half-hour? We need to get this report off today!”
He was factual, frank and logical. However, Joanne walked away with low energy, feeling criticized, unappreciated and insignificant She also felt a familiar twinge of shame similar to when she was a little girl and her mother had tongue-lashed her. Then, she began to consider handing in her resignation.
Joanne’s reaction may seem extreme, but the fear of rejection is actually experienced by most of us. Dr. Jack Rosenberg, author of Body, Self and Soul; psychoanalyst Alice Miller; John Bradshaw and many other healers, describe how, as adults, we are triggered into re-experiencing disappointments and traumas from our childhood. Even little hurts, like Joanne’s experience with her boss, can cause feelings of rejection. This is especially true when we do not experience basic recognition.
Giving impromptu and frequent employee recognition costs nothing and yet it is often overlooked.
The Power of Appreciation
How we criticize and how we acknowledge others are learned behaviors. Some managers, parents and leaders naturally have big-picture and critical minds. They can easily prevent many unforeseen problems and can correct the actions of others. However, too much disapproval can ruin connection, enthusiasm, productivity, loyalty, and self-worth. Don’t we all want to be seen, heard and acknowledged for our efforts? I know I do!
As human resource specialist, Susan Heathfield, says,
People who feel appreciated are more positive about themselves and their ability to contribute.”
Her belief is backed up by research. A dissertation from Benedictine University in 2000 called “Appreciative Inquiry” concluded that workers who felt appreciated by management were 52% less likely to look for different employment. Money may be an important driver in keeping workers happy and committed to their employers, but so are human factors such as being valued.
It has been said in many ways that, “Those with authority carry more responsibility.” As a result, those who have more influence and power over others, whether as role models, managers or parents, can do more injury with criticism or they can do more uplifting with encouragement and validation.
The Right Way to Provide Feedback
Here are 10 responsible ways to give recognition whether it is at work, home or in your community:
- Filter your critical comments by asking yourself what people really need to hear to function at their best.
- Minimize negative words such as can’t, but, no, never, always, should, and impossible.
- Be cautious of beginning your sentences with You followed by are wrong, are incompetent, need to, and are at fault.
- Remind yourself that most of us are doing the best that we can.
- Listen first to discern what is going on for the other person.
- Acknowledge feelings. They are never right or wrong.
- Acknowledge people’s best intentions. If you don’t know what they intended guess that their intentions were the very best.
- Note and comment on people’s accomplishments and strengths.
- Act as if you are a cheerleader or a supportive coach.
- Increase phrases of recognition and encouragement such as:
- “I appreciate your effort.”
- “Thank you for your time and contribution.”
- “I like your eagerness.”
- “I see you put in a lot of time working on this.”
- “I believe you put a lot into this.”
- “You look like you could use some help.
- “I imagine this project has been difficult for you.”
- “You deserve some helpful suggestions.”
- “I know we can figure this out.”
Joanne’s boss would benefit from Shirley MacLaine quote of, “Dwelling on the negative simply contributes to its power.” He then might not risk devaluing and losing a valuable employee. Instead, he could support his employees by sharing some positive words of recognition. “Thank you, Joanne for staying late to finish this report. You went beyond expectations to do that. I appreciate your commitment.” Then he could add, “I’d like to discuss some edits to the report before we forward it to the client.”
What are your experiences of receiving or giving recognition?
Please check out these related posts
Patricia Morgan MA CCC helps her readers, clients, and audiences lighten their load, brighten their outlook, and strengthen their resilience. To go from woe to WOW call 403.242.7796 or email a request.