Everyone likes being appreciated, even if they express this desire differently. Whether they’re introverts or extroverts, humans need reassurance and recognition for their work. It’s just how we are.
That’s not particularly helpful, though, when considering how exactly recognition should be provided. Are all types of recognition roughly equivalent, or are there better and worse ways of expressing this emotion to your team members?
Here, it’s helpful to separate recognition into two types. We all know what it feels like to be genuinely appreciated for what we do. But is there a wrong way to go about this? And if so, what is it?
Let’s start with how we can express recognition authentically.
The first thing to realise is that recognition is ultimately a personal exchange between two people, not a public gesture.
This makes the moment of recognition one of the more profound moments in a typical career. As an employer, offering recognition sincerely involves a certain degree of ‘shedding your skin’, as the person receiving it expects sincerity and openness.
It’s because of this emotional openness involved that recognition is best expressed simply.
Due to the gesture’s emotional payoff for the team member – that well-known ‘dopamine hit’ – it’s usually best not to obscure the truth of the moment beneath excessive praise or fanfare.
Just let the achievement do the talking.
Even if your simple, sincere message of recognition feels awkward to express, it won’t go unnoticed by the recipient.
Because so many rituals in our society have become sensationalised, the unadorned nature of recognising someone’s work may seem insufficient – but that’s a mistake. If the gesture is heartfelt, it’s most likely to be appreciated.
Just as in a family, celebrating the regular achievements of team members is an important ritual within a workplace. Having the opportunity to express small, regular exchanges of appreciation fosters a sense of solidarity among the team.
Whether it’s delivered in public or private, recognition is critical to generating the positive feelings that spur ongoing motivation.
Modest, personal ways of expressing recognition keep things on a personal scale.
That’s a contrast with more showy, sensational, public ways of expressing recognition …
Which almost always fall flat on their face. This approach can easily be mistaken for ‘empty praise’, which fails to adequately respect what someone has achieved.
Consider what it would feel like. Which of these situations would feel more natural?
- Option 1: Your employer sends you a thoughtful email, expressing exactly what you’ve done right.
- Option 2: Your employer gives you a big ‘shout-out’ and a ‘three cheers’ in front of the whole team.
There might be some exceptions, but most people would be more comfortable with Option 1. This takes off the pressure to ‘perform’ your gratitude in front of the entire team, while offering the opportunity for you to appreciate the words in private.
Of course, there’s the occasional person who unfailingly loves to be recognised with all the bells and whistles known to humankind. If so, celebrate their contribution to your heart’s content – but only if you feel it’s warranted.
An effective way of recognising team members in other ways would be to offer team members regular opportunities to give them regular opportunities to express recognition in a low-key, non-confrontational way.
Team members usually hold a great deal of positive feeling towards each other, so providing them with avenues to express this is incredibly valuable.
One simple way of doing this is to provide team members with a MS Teams thread exclusively for group achievements. Unlike regular public announcements, this outlet enables all people to recognise the person of the moment … without putting them on the spot.
Expressing recognition perfectly is a fine balancing act, but it’s worth getting right. When your team members feel appreciated without being overwhelmed by attention, they’re more likely to flourish – and return the favour.