Recognition: The Fuel of Employee Engagement

Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but rather strive to be worthy of recognition. – Abraham Lincoln

A story is told of the great Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo who happened to overhear a group of people admiring his Pieta, a statue of Christ on His mother’s knees after His death on the cross. One man attributed the work to another sculptor, much to the chagrin of Michelangelo, who took particular pride in the Pieta. Returning to the sculpture after dark that evening, Michelangelo carved his name on it so that no similar mistake would occur in the future. Talk about someone with recognition issues!

It is not a stretch to state that most people in your place of work appreciate recognition for the contributions they make. A Harvard Business Review article ( cites a Harris poll that is eye-opening to say the least. “In the survey,” it reads, “employees called out the kind of management offenses that point to a striking lack of emotional intelligence among business leaders, including micromanaging, bullying, narcissism, indecisiveness, and more.” The top offense? Topping the complaints (by employees) at sixty-three percent was not recognizing employee achievements.

The most important thing a leader, manager, boss, supervisor, etc. must learn is that people are your most appreciable asset. The second most important thing to remember is that relationships matter. The hard lesson to learn is that people can be difficult and building relationships can be complicated.

So what is a leader to do when it comes to recognition and building relationships? The questions can outnumber the answers but here are a few suggestions for starters.

Make it a priority

As a leader the recognition of your people- your most appreciable asset, must be a top priority. Your responsibility is to make sure that the hard work and dedication of your people is given the appreciation that it is due. When your people know you have their backs and recognize their efforts you are building good will among them and they will keep performing at high levels.

Make it personal; make it public

Not all recognition should necessarily be public; but that never hurts. When a colleague is publicly praised for achieving a goal it is proper to praise in public. It builds confidence and reinforces morale. But a good leader also knows that a personal hand-written note of appreciation is priceless. So practice both- and be sincere.

Be spontaneous

Your people often face obstacles and challenges that you are far-removed from. The daily grind can wear down even the best among you. Nothing will lift the spirts and culture of your organization more than a kind gesture of appreciation to your people for no other reason than to say, “I am with you, you are not forgotten, I am proud of you”.

Be realistic

The hard reality every leader has to learn is that some of your people – those “most appreciable assets” will be very challenging when it comes to building relationships. As you know, some require more “strokes” and attention than others and at times there will be no “pleasing” of these people. On the other side of the coin you will have individuals who are just happy to show up, work hard, go above and beyond the call of duty and would be embarrassed if singled out for recognition. Challenging, right? John Maxwell was right when he said, “It’s lonely at the top so you better know why you are there.” Welcome to leadership.

Be inclusive

One of the challenges you will face as a leader is the accusation of showing favoritism. I am a believer that those who demonstrate a strong work ethic, a positive attitude, and a genuine team player approach are actually deserving of more recognition that those who don’t. But as much as it depends on you as the leader, be inclusive as possible when it comes to recognition. Everyone fights battles and carries within them struggles of which you don’t know and a little encouragement and recognition can make the difference between where they are now and the spark needed to go to the next level. Don’t leave anyone out.

Be generous

Recognition and reinforcing a positive message within your organization is a game changer. The culture you desire is created by the tone you set as a leader. There are plenty of critics, skeptics, gossips, and otherwise contentious attitudes to deal with at times. The path of effective and meaningful employee engagement and strong relationships begins with recognition that comes from the heart. It begins with you.

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555


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