Creating value for others through recognition – Not easy, but worth it! Published by Work Style Magazine Issue 14 January 2015 – Downloadable file
Have you ever thought about the value that you personally create on a daily basis for others through recognition? Recognition is essentially the positive feedback that lets employees know we value and appreciate them whether we are their boss or their co-worker. To have the greatest impact in the workplace, recognition should reinforce and encourage work that advances employee, department and/or organizational goals and values. It also should be genuine and personal.
Often we think about recognition as the formal programs implemented by companies to reward employees for good performance. While these formal programs are effective motivators, we each have the ability to make a positive difference and create value for others on a daily basis through informal recognition.
At its root, recognition starts with us, as the givers, wanting to provide a positive environment for our colleagues through our own actions, attitude, and words. Social psychologists often refer to this positive stance as a concern for the rights, feelings, and welfare of other people. Behaviors often include feeling empathy and concern for others and behaving in ways to recognize and praise other people.
Research has long shown that recipients of such positive behavior and recognition benefit in such ways as higher performance, greater self-worth, an enhanced sense of belonging, lower stress, and an increased sense of well-being. Furthermore, when our motivations to recognize others derive from our own volition rather than from obligation, we create greater value for the recipients through a better quality of behaviors from us and a greater sense of closeness to us.
In his research, University of Virginia Professor Edward Hess found that many high-performing leaders shared the characteristics of being people-centric, valuing service to others, and believing they had a duty of stewardship to others. Hess noted that common behaviors among these leaders included treating people with dignity, helping them with projects, providing constructive feedback, not interrupting, listening intently, smiling, saying please and thank you, acknowledging individuals’ contributions, and accepting mistakes from others, and admitting their own mistakes.
These leaders also did not engage in negative counter behaviors that devalued others such as abusing, humiliating, excluding, or otherwise diminishing people through words and actions.
Research has also suggested that not only do bosses and leaders have a strong influence through recognition, but so can co-workers. Studies have found that co-worker recognition contributes strongly to feelings of group cohesiveness and job satisfaction.
In an era characterized by harsh economic realities, 24/7 work demands, rapid change, and increased levels of stress in all areas of our lives, it has never been more important for leaders to think about their employees and for co-workers to think about each other. A 2012 study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that while 51 percent of supervisors felt they did a good job recognizing their employees, only 17 percent of the employees at the same organizations felt that their supervisors did a good job recognizing them.
A main contributor to employees leaving organizations is not feeling valued and appreciated. A study of over 1,700 employees conducted in 2012 by the American Psychological Association (APA) indicated that more than half of all employees intended to search for new jobs because they felt underappreciated and undervalued.
Why is employee recognition seemingly so scarce? Often, people don’t know how to provide recognition effectively or they think narrowly about how to provide the recognition. Additionally, sometimes personal jealously or fear gets in the way–thinking that recognizing someone else may diminish one’s own contribution and value. Recognition also takes thought, time, and effort.
Everyone wants others to appreciate them, their work, and their efforts no matter what level in the organization. Moreover, most people enjoy being valued every day. We all have the capacity to create value for others daily through our actions and words and the power to make others feel important and appreciated. Frequent recognition sends a strong message that we value the relationship with others and that they are important to the organization and us.
Start today, and ask yourself, how can I create value for those that I work with by recognizing their contributions? Perhaps the answer is as simple as saying thank you, writing a note of appreciation, telling someone they have done a good job on a task, including them in a project, asking them for their input, providing personal development, training, and cross-training opportunities, and having them attend professional meetings. You can also create value for others by providing a word of encouragement after a mistake or failure, helping and supporting them with a difficult situation, or keeping your commitments that you made to them. Employees want leaders who have their best interests at heart – in good and bad situations and who encourage and support them.
As Voltaire said, “Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”
Christine M. Riordan, PhD, is the 10th president of Adelphi University in New York. Her writing focuses on diversity and inclusion, leadership effectiveness, and career success. Follow her on Twitter at @Chris_M_Riordan.