According to research by recognition experts OC Tanner, only 61% of people feel appreciated at work. And although many employers think the reason people leave is compensation, only 12% of people who leave their company cite that as the reason for their departure. The real reason folks are departing? A whopping 79% say they’re out the door because of a lack of appreciation.
So, let’s say that you’re a manager who wants to recognize employee efforts. Or, perhaps you have a peer who saved your bacon and you want to say a heartfelt “thanks!” What’s the best way to get your message across?
My answer is, “it depends”. While most people enjoy being recognized, they don’t enjoy being recognized in the same way. So, for some people, the recognition with all the hoopla at the monthly employee customer service awards is just fine. For others, they’d rather have a root canal than have everybody looking at them.
The People Equation of Recognition
Here’s the thing about recognition: the people giving it have good intentions, but if they don’t know at least a little bit about the recognition recipient, the praise may fall far short of the positive benefits they’d hope for. That’s why we sometimes feel our tokens of appreciation aren’t, well, appreciated.
Here’s the people equation take-away: before you write off these folks as ingrates, consider how their personality may play into the picture. Is the person you praised outgoing and enthusiastic? Or perhaps she’s more reserved. Maybe he’s a hard-charging character, or is an analytical “thinking” type. Paying careful attention to your colleague’s natural preferences for recognition can provide you clues into the best way to show your appreciation.
4 Recognition Preferences
You might be thinking, “What?! You want me to be an armchair psychologist just so I can say ‘thank you’ to a coworker?” No, you don’t need to be a shrink; you just need to reflect a bit before you say “thanks.” People tend to prefer recognition that falls into one of four categories:
No-Frills. People with this preference are direct, “straight-shooter” types. This person does not want a 10-piece marching band to announce their accomplishment. Keep the praise simple.
Social. For this person, enthusiasm is very important. And if the praise can be done in public, all the better! People with this recognition preference are natural networkers— public recognition helps them feel connected to those who know them.
Low-Key. Some people just don’t want to have a fuss made over them. They appreciate recognition as much as the next person, but it needs to be calm and most importantly sincere. People who prefer this type of recognition can spot phony praise a mile away.
Specific. “Nice job” may suffice for some people (think: No-Frills) but that won’t cut it with a person who craves details. People with this recognition preference like to be recognized for specific accomplishments or job skills. The praise doesn’t need to be effusive, just accurately stated.
Giving people recognition lets them know that their work matters. When you do it in a way that honors their own unique preferences, you take it a step further: you show them that they matter.
Jennifer Miller says
Kevin, hello and welcome to The People Equation! I agree that showing appreciation doesn’t need to be costly. The irony is that a lack of appreciation *is* costly in terms of decreased morale and engagement.
Mark Wayland says
The best companies/ best managers know that they need to treat their workers as respected humans before treating them as valued employees. The distinction is subtle though very powerful. And it’s in that order.
Lousy companies/ managers only try to do the latter, and often poorly, while the former is a real blind-spot for them.
Tony Bianchi says
Thank you for this article, Jennifer.
Most managers think recognition is the only thing that matters, but that’s just the first rung of the ladder. I agree with your personality breakdown – very accurate, I am always still specific with details no matter the personality. I feel if I am not specific, the employee, in my case recruiter will think that I am insincere.