7 Helpful Tips to Help You to Deal with Resistance to Your Recognition Program

by Sarah McVanel, Chief Recognition Officer, Greatness Magnified

You know recognition is a great idea.

You’ve seen the value! You’ve even levelled up recognition in your team and across the entire organization!

 image of an animated faceless person pushing against air showing resistance And then, pushback. (Insert gloomy music here).

Are all of your efforts for naught? Was it a failure? Did you do it wrong? Are they wrong?

We recently helped an amazing organization that is rolling out FROG (Forever Recognize Others’ Greatness) with this question: “We have one group that is struggling to see the value, and we need help to motivate them. Any ideas?”

Do we ever!

First of all, know that this is normal! Don’t question yourself, your program, or your intention too hastily. If people are complaining, disputing or even simply expressing subtle resistance, that’s a good sign! They trust you! People who are disengaged (quietly quit) and mentally out the door are not the people who dispute a recognition program. They don’t care enough to do so! They’re not invested!

So, with this gift of the challenge, here are some options:

1. Could you “drip” recognition into existing work conversations, such as starting team meetings with a recognition reflection, asking folks to recognize other departments/programs, etc.? Sometimes small and subtle is the shift that’s needed. If you already do this (no doubt you do), keep doing it!

2. Could you tie the “full” launch to a particular celebration (e.g., Employee Appreciation Day, Nurses Week, Sales Professionals in the Plastics Industry Who Also Like Hamburgers Day!)? Bring in an expert (ahem, sure, I’d love to come!) as part of the event and let them learn, experience and explore recognition while being recognized!

3. Could a few stay interviews be woven into crucial conversations to discover the more profound issues?

4. Could we reflect on the concept of “a complaint is merely a poorly worded request“? What are the requests and resourceful insights hidden behind the pushback?

5. Could you leverage the Recognition Checklist results from that team and review/gather their results and adapt the recognition to what those individuals most want (e.g. if most/all prefer “private” recognition versus public acknowledgements, then a shift to one-on-one and back away from the team/corporate work for now).

6. Could you “study” the “bright spots” (the concept of positive deviance that we dive into in our Solution Focused Greatness session – feel free to click to learn more!)? Explore where recognition practices flourish and leverage those strategies over time in places where it’s not.

7. Could you make recognition a “fun” anchor to fuel connection every month? We just created a Recognition Calendar to give you an idea for every month in 2023!

image of a seedling sprouting out of a small pile of dirtPush versus Pull Approach

So much of this advice is a “pull” versus “push” approach to change. Keep your passion for creating a recognition-rich culture, and don’t be afraid to let it grow over time. You know how you can plant all of the same seedlings, but some shoot up, and others take a while to germinate? Recognition is like that too. You plant the seeds, water them, fertilize them, try different places to nourish them, and over time, they will grow.

Hesitancy, skepticism or uncertainty are par for the course of any culture change. You’re elevating your recognition intention and practices for all the right reasons, so stay the course. After all, you have the gift to push back. And what an exciting source of insight you now have available!

Can we help? Reach out! We love to help overcome roadblocks to recognition-rich cultures.

Here are even more ideas to help you push your recognition program forward:

PS – If you’re rebuilding your recognition strategy, this program might be helpful.

Course thumbnail for e-learning course "Build Your Best Recognition Program Yet" by Greatness Magnified

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Deb Rakonjac

Organizational Development, Purolator Inc.

"Sarah nailed it!  She worked with the planning group to learn about the organization, the audience, the desired key messages and integrated it seamlessly into her keynote. Her energy was contagious! We received rave reviews of this portion of our event and Sarah was able to speak to all members of our organization in a way that motivated them to recognize others everyday. Our executives were extraordinarily pleased and integrated FROGging into their recent board meeting. Purolator is grateful to Sarah for dropping the pebble and we continue to see the ripples from this session across the organization. Working with Tami was phenomenal and the supports were easy to integrate to ensure the session went well. Thanks to you both!!"
Douglas D Swift

President & CEO, Swiftco Inc.

"I have had the Sarah experience in numerous settings: As a keynote, around a table with several other business owners, one on one over coffee, chatting with others at a conference reception, dining with a small group of colleagues. No matter the setting you always get the same Sarah: engaging, attentive, interested, inspiring, motivational, genuine. And always with an infectious smile. Do yourself, your company, your association a favour. Get the Greatness Magnified (Sarah) experience. The payback is priceless."
Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

Some of the Great Organizations We Serve