November 20, 2012

Employee Recognition: The Gratitude Attitude

When is the last time someone was openly recognized for something good at your workplace?  If it has been more than a week, you may want to think about employee recognition.  I hear it all the time – what used to be a basic work ethic is now worthy of a confetti drop.  While it’s hard to deny some concerning changes in societal norms, I believe that the gratitude attitude can provide your Company with a HUGE strategic advantage. 

The gratitude attitude describes an organization’s “bent” towards recognizing positive contributions among members, stakeholders and others who model Employee Recognitionattributes the organization values.  This attitude loves to catch people doing right, and loves to shine the spotlight on them.  In the best Companies, suppliers, customers and other stake holders can be the recipients of gratitude and recognition.  This attitude can be infectious, encouraging everyone to be a little more considerate and respectful.  Over time, the gratitude attitude reduces stress in the workplace (who couldn’t use less stress?), grievances, turnover and other HR risks.  It reinforces an environment in which employees can do their best work.

If you aren’t enjoying the gratitude attitude in your Company, check for (and challenge) the following assumptions:

  1. Recognition creates entitled employees.  This assumption is not true.  Instead, consider how pervasive entitlement is in a culture that does not recognize positive behaviors.  A lack of (or poorly executed) recognition drives entitlement.

  2. More expensive recognition is more meaningful.  Here is another misguided assumption.  How many Companies throw money away on recognition that employees don’t value?  High cost is not guarantee of meaning or impact.

  3. Treating everyone the same is better for morale than recognizing a few people.  Nothing is more unfair than forcing the same outcomes for different levels of achievement.  Few practices have a more damaging effect on productivity and morale than this type of “standardization.”

  4. Recognition must be based on subjective criteria.  This may be true for rewards (if you do ___, you will receive ___) but not awards (Most Likely to Succeed, MVP, Best New Artist, etc.).  Awards are forms of recognition that are not based on subjective criteria.

  5. Recognition has to come from managers to be effective.  This is yet another inaccurate belief.  Peer recognition is extremely powerful.  So is a vote of confidence from your employees.  The truth is that recognition is valued in proportion to the level of respect the recipient has for the recognizer.  A management role does not necessarily bring about respect.

Take time to recognize positive contributions at work.  Make the recognition specific and public.  Gratitude is always in season – especially in the workplace.

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