Do you give both recognition and appreciation?.

Posted: December 2nd, 2019

Recognition is essentially the informal or formal support of an individual or team’s behaviour or effort that supports organizational goals and values, and which has clearly been beyond normal expectations.    I think we can all agree that recognition at work is a good thing.   Companies may struggle to know how and when to do it,   debate whether they need some kind of program or if it can be ad-hoc.,  worry about making it fair and transparent and have a tonne of questions, but I don’t generally find anyone saying “I don’t think we should recognize people at work’.    

Because we know.   We know that recognition makes a difference. When asked how to improve engagement at work, 58% of people pointed to better recognition.   We know we want it.  An Achievers’ study found that 93% hope to get recognized once a quarter.   We know that recognition increases employee satisfaction and engagement (It’s a key question in the Gallup 12 that shows a correlation between strong recognition practices and high engagement and performance levels).   Yes, we know recognition matters.   

And yet, it’s still a gap.  

65% of employees do not feel recognized at work.   

Many people see recognition as a top down leader driven activity, which it’s not.   Leader recognition absolutely matters, but a strong recognition culture has everyone recognizing everyone.  Knowing what to recognize, especially when someone is different to you, matters.  As does figuring out recognition for that ‘good’ performer who doesn’t’ go beyond normal expectations as a matter of course, but who still wants to be valued.  And that’s where we also sometimes have challenges.  Many organizations are set up with ‘performance cultures’; reward and recognition are tied to going above and beyond in terms of performance and results rather than effort.  That makes total sense as a means of increasing organizational performance, but if that is the only focus of your recognition you’re missing a key aspect. 

We need to be appreciated 

Often when I talk to leaders about increasing engagement, they totally get recognition, but when I ask about appreciation, they are less clear.   Appreciation is defined as “the demonstration of enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something”.   How often to do you openly validate, endorse and thank people for their great qualities like a sense of humour, a strong detail focus, a genuine concern for others, a strong delivery focus and so on?  Appreciation has nothing to do with performance, tasks or what you do for the company and has everything to do with who you are.    There are no limits on appreciation.

Appreciation helps us feel part of the group, which is a fundamental human driver.  It encourages teams to leverage each other's strengths and to share more about what they appreciate with one another.  It sets a tone of value beyond what you do and moves to what you are.   That aspect of recognition is really important in workplaces.  We can’t always be going above normal expectations, but we can always bring the best of who we are.  

So how do you weave appreciation in?    

Because appreciation is not about performance, it can actually be easier to do once you’re thinking about it.  An off the cuff comment or something you bring up in a 1:1 or team meeting  “ I love your sense of humour” ,  “thank you for always coming to meetings prepared”,  “ thank you for always being so supportive of the rest of the team”,    can have a fundamental impact on someone’s day…week… year.     

Taking the time to think about what you appreciate is still key, but unlike performance based recognition, you can always appreciate someone.

Overall, combining recognition and appreciation makes workplaces stronger.  Culture is about a collection of behaviour and as human beings we mirror those around us.   The more we role model recognition and appreciation, the more others will copy what we do.   Set the tone on recognition and appreciation and you might be surprised about how much more of it you start to see. 

For more help with recognition and appreciation or for building a highly engaged workplace, get in touch at [email protected].      Want leaders who create a high performing, highly engaged workplace,  consider our blended leadership program for supervisors.


Psychometrics Canada;  "A study of engagement in the Canadian workplace". "5 eye opening HR stats -why employee recognition matters"

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