This is a sore subject for most managers. Everyone knows it needs to be done, and hardly anyone does it very well. This goes for the brand new, rookie manager all the way to the top of the organization. Employee appreciation, or employee recognition, isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Acknowledging a job well done is just difficult for a lot of people. It is so much easier to focus on all the things that go wrong, the mistakes, the failures, the unending fire-fighting that takes up a manager’s time.
But learning to stop and notice the positives that happen every day is good for you and your team. Small things like letting someone know that you realize how hard they’ve been working and you really appreciate it. Or congratulating someone on getting a hot project done on time. Or gathering the team around and expressing your gratitude for all the extra time they’ve put in on a big job.
Morale is a curious thing. Saying and doing these things may have no noticeable effect at all. A few will really appreciate the sentiment, a few will glaze over and barely listen, and a few will grumble that your pretty words don’t put food on the table or pay the rent. But if you never say or do these things everyone will grumble about how nothing is appreciated.
So there are the informal displays of appreciation that need to happen on a daily basis, and there are the more formal displays of appreciation that are triggered by some event.
Whether its the monthly team meeting, or a quarterly sales goal that got met, or a Christmas party with year-end awards given out – you’re going to need something to physically hand to someone. Find a local shop or somewhere online to produce plaques or trophies for your event.
Recognition That Backfires
A word about giving out awards. Be very careful about defining the criteria of each category. Something like "Highest Sales" should be pretty straightforward. An award for "Great Attitude" can cause a lot of drama, though. Everyone has an opinion about who has a great attitude, and people can get pretty nasty if they disagree with your pick and create a lot of team conflict.
Some organizations opt to have employees vote on certain categories. This can also be dangerous. For one, it is usually a popularity contest… and the unpopular folks dislike it from the start. And you can’t just discount the feelings of the unpopular team members as they may be some of your most productive people. Another thing to watch out for is if anyone who is eligible has any power over the voters. Any coercion for votes will ruin any good will that might have been generated by handing out awards in the first place.