Career Innovations is proud to host this week's Carnival of HR. Carnival of HR is dedicated to bringing together the best posts from the HR blogging community! This post was submitted by Julie Winkle Giulioni. Julie is the co-founder and principal of DesignArounds, and leads multi-disciplinary teams that create award-winning electronic and instructor-led training. She has has spent the past 25 years improving performance through learning and has partnered with hundreds of organizations to develop and deploy innovative training products that are in use worldwide.
Itâs hard to imagine that in the workplace something as constructive, positive, and uplifting as recognition could go wrong. After all, itâs free. And research consistently points to how effectively appreciation builds morale, engagement, and bottom-line results. But each and every day, well-meaning managers inadvertently ruin it.
Last week I worked with two managers whose mindsets â while diametrically opposed â were each responsible for ruining recognitionâŠ but in very different ways.
The first was a mid-level manager at a manufacturing and sales facility. He heads a large department charged with reducing costs, increasing output, and expanding sales. Staff is working overtime, engaging in improvement committees, and experimenting with a range of new practices. Itâs an environment thatâs begging for a little recognitionâŠ right?
But this manager explained that heâs made a conscious decision not to start recognizing his people. He wants to be fair and is afraid that with such a large staff and so many hard workers, he might accidentally overlook an employee who is doing noteworthy work, hurt someoneâs feelings, and undermine morale. So, he chooses to keep his recognition to himself.
Later in the week, I met a nursing supervisor with a group of twelve reporting to her. A real-believer in the power of recognition, sheâs created her own team award. A lovely glass star passes from recipient to recipient in her area. During the first huddle of each month, she makes a point of highlighting one employee. She explained that sheâs developed a spreadsheet to keep track of whoâs received the star whenâŠ so she can make sure that everyone gets it at some point during the year. She wonders why this recognition rotation isnât leading to improved results. (Little does she know that her team probably takes bets on whoâs âupâ next.)
These contrasting examples left me wondering if we all need to worry less about âfairnessâ and more about shining the light on work that makes a difference. Withholding recognition or wringing all meaning from it by meticulously ensuring that itâs spread absolutely evenly across the team undermines the power of recognition and the possibilities it holds.
Rather than concerning ourselves with âfairnessâ, perhaps we should concern ourselves with:
- Who is doing stand-out work?
- What specific behaviors support the business strategy?
- Who is making a real difference to co-workers, the department and/or organization as a whole?
- What are customers appreciating about the teamâs work?
- What kinds of skills and actions are required to meet goals and achieve results?
Questions like these focus on what matters most to the organization while promoting genuine and results-producing recognition. They allow managers to use recognition as a strategic tool to support the business.
So, if drawing attention to exemplary performance that drives results is unfair, then by all means, be unfair.
And while youâre being unfair, also make sure to:
- Be brief, concrete, and specific.
- Let others know not just what you appreciate but also why you appreciate it. Connect the dots between what youâre recognizing and why itâs important.
- Share the recognition as soon after the positive behavior as possible.
- Be sincere. Recognition need not be grand or flowery. An authentic expression of appreciation has powerful and long-term effects.
Leaders must challenge their definitions of âfairnessâ with regard to recognition. Itâs NOT fair to withhold positive comments about employee performance. Itâs NOT fair to conceal what you value most in terms of your teamâs behaviors or actions. And itâs certainly NOT fair to fail to embrace a leadership practice that can directly affect the bottom line.
So, the next time youâre tempted to be âfairâ by staying silent or youâre tempted to start acting like a kidsâ soccer coach with trophies for everyone on the teamâŠ remember that ruining recognition isnât fair.
A blogging carnival is a social media meme in which a group of bloggers submit blog posts to a âhostâ who compiles the posts into one collection that they then publish on their site on the prearranged day. The posts and bloggers are generally focused on an similar area of interest, such as Human Resources, and may or may not have a theme which unites the posts on a specific question or topic. Carnivals occur on a regular schedule, monthly/biweekly/weekly, and the carnival hosts change after each event. You can find more information about blog carnivals here.
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