When it comes to the role of recognition in the workplace, the knowledge base is clear: we human beings want to be appreciated and valued in the work we do.
Recognition, though, is only as good as the spirit that animates it. As a fundamentally above-the-line behavior, recognition can be disingenuous as easily as it can be sincere, perfunctory as easily as heartfelt.
It must therefore be rooted in below-the-line qualities of spirit such as gratitude and appreciation if it is to be meaningful to employees.
Leaders who wish to more effectively recognize employees, then, must begin by taking a candid look at the fundamental beliefs and values shaping their own behavior.
Do I have a sincere and personal appreciation for the contribution of employees? Do I genuinely feel gratitude for the work they do? Do I have a truly appreciative heart?
The answers to these questions will go a long way in determining how effective your efforts at recognition will be.
Appreciation is not only critical to effective leadership, it is far more so than many leaders realize. In our consulting work we have gone so far as to tell leaders that if they do not sincerely appreciate their employees, they should get out of the business of leadership altogether.
We say this not to be harsh or condemnatory, but simply because recognition is far too important to be marginalized or trivialized.
This importance stems in large part from the fact that, to the recipient, recognition is invariably personal. Plans and projects might be what people end up talking about but we are the ones doing a good job. We are the ones contributing to a program. We are the ones being thanked and valued.
Recognition is therefore an issue fundamentally concerned with people, not tasks. It is an acknowledgment of contributions made, but in a deeper sense it is an acknowledgment of the value and worth of an individual him- or herself.
And much as we all want to be recognized for what we do, we want even more we want to be appreciated for who we are.
This is true of our employees, our friends, our coworkers, our family, and ourselves. It is a universal human desire. And because it is such a personal issue, no one will be satisfied with a supervisor who does not value their efforts and recognize their contributions.