Unconditional Recognition in the Workplace – 3 Essential Tips
“What if people think I am insincere?”
This is a common question I get asked a lot as a recognition expert. And I’ve realized that the question gets at a bigger theme.
Have you ever noticed how conditional recognition is in the workplace? What I mean is that recognition seems to be given when you reach a marker of success. Often times, it can be quite high which can be difficult for some people to attain to be able to receive acknowledgement of any kind.
Let’s just take a step back for a second. I appreciate that we need to have standards, and that we’re not going to recognize everything and everyone. And, if the bar has been set so high that people feel it’s unattainable, to reach such an incredibly high milestone, then how motivating could it possibly be to continue on that path?
The workplace of today is very stressful and can be challenging. People have more on their plates than they could possibly imagine and jobs are constantly changing with new technology, new equipment or new organizational priorities being put in place to create more ‘effectiveness on the job’. One of the biggest challenges I see in cultures with high organizational engagement is that people don’t know what the priorities are. And how it relates to their job. All of this is getting muddled with conditional recognition because we’re trying to tie our recognition with corporate strategies and its outcomes and values, yet we’re muddled about what our priorities are.
Let’s ‘reinvent the wheel’ (so to speak). Let’s recognize people for their contributions unconditionally. How about recognizing progress? Why can’t we recognize people who are trying in their own way to make the workplace better? And how about strategies they come up with that better serve the customer? Or maybe even that impact your team in a positive way?
Here are three essential tips for making recognition conditional (and getting better results with your people as a result):
My 3 Essential Tips:
1. Recognize progress.
How is someone on your team doing better at their job/project? How is the project moving forward and what has improved from the last time (focus on the positive)? As those of you know who have read my book Flip Side of Failing, we need to take a look at the progress mechanism so that we are able to not see something as a failure
2. Recognize individual performance.
We need to acknowledge people at their own level of performance. I’ve talked a lot about retaining top talent in our current talent shortage. That doesn’t necessarily mean the top 10% of the organization are the only ones that we’re trying to retain. We’re trying to retain team members who are contributing in a positive, meaningful way across the board. That means the majority of your people. Are you acknowledging people for their contributions and also for their potential (to be better). A sense of positive recognition would make your team more likely to continue to work towards an ambitious target, to be able to stretch outside their comfort zone and achieve more.
3. Recognize learning.
Finally, how can we celebrate the learning that happens along the way? If you have picked up Flip Side of Failing , you’ll know that FLIP stands for fail, learn, ignite, and praise. Praise was purposefully placed last because first we have to experience failure. When experiencing failure, we need to ask ourselves “what do we need to learn from this situation?” By learning from the situation this can ignite a refocusing possibility. It can give you a greater sense of purpose and direction that maybe you didn’t realize was there had it not been for that failure. What we know about learning theory is that when people do not feel punished, they are more likely to remember, assimilate, and utilize that learning later. So praise people for learning from the failures, rather than simply telling them how not to repeat it.
When giving only conditional praise, we cheat ourselves of the opportunity to learn from failures, obstacles, and challenges.
I encourage you to reflect on your own recognition habits, and notice how much is conditional. Could you make it a little less conditional? What kind of outcomes will you have with the people that you work with, whether it be your staff, your customers, or your peers, by trying this? Comment below or share on social media your experiences!