Find Out How People Want To Be Recognized

Has your manager ever recognized you in a way you really didn’t appreciate?

While not by my manager, I can recall twice where people recognized me in not the best way.

Each of these poor recognition events proved the person responsible for recognizing me had done no homework. In addition, it might well have been the individual transferring their own preference on to how they recognized me. And, I also think one was a cheap, quick and easy way out.

The bottom-line is I did not feel properly recognized.

Have you seen employees disappointed or feeling a lack of respect with how they’re acknowledged and recognized?

We will discover ways for finding out how people want to be recognized.

Remember, I alluded to two occasions where I received depersonalized recognition that meant nothing to me? Let me share those experiences with you so we can learn from them.

If Only They Had Found Out

One occasion was at a book signing and presentation I made at a bookstore from a large book chain. After the presentation the manager stood in front of the audience and gave me a copy of the classic book on the Art of War. This was not exactly the genre of books I like to read—nothing against Sun Tzu and James Clavell. I ended up donating the book to my local library.

At a different bookstore from the same book chain, after completing my presentation, their manager handed me a $25 gift card. I was like a little kid in a candy store spending way too much time before making my final decision in selecting a book I wanted. I even added extra money to the gift card to make the purchase.

Besides being paid for giving keynote presentations and delivering training sessions for organizations about employee recognition, meeting organizers often feel a need to present speakers with a gift. This is a very generous gesture. 

At a particular association conference I recall the association president giving me a tall thin gift all nicely wrapped up. If you guessed it already, it was a bottle of wine. However, since I choose not to drink alcoholic drinks, I ended up returning the gift to the host once the event was over, and I explained my not drinking wine.

Imagine if the one bookstore manager along with the meeting planner had done a little homework beforehand. They both could have known I love to read but which genre of books I like most and that I abstain from alcohol. These insights would have provided them with a few do’s and don’ts, and some potential ideas for giving tangible gifts that would have made the recognition experience more positive.

Finding Out Others’ Recognition Wants

On occasions where I’ve not known much about an individual that I need to thank with a gift, I have worked with their assistant or their significant other and asked for their confidential guidance in choosing the perfect gift.

I recall one occasion where I had connected with a fellow speaker at a meeting that resulted in my getting a speaking engagement at another conference this same speaker was presenting at. In wanting to thank them for the referral I enlisted their assistant and discovered my new friend was an avid golfer and frequented a particular golf club in the state where he lived. I contacted the golf club and got a personalized gift certificate from the professional golf shop on site. Not only was this gift very much appreciated, but it held more meaning because my new friend realized the time and effort I put into finding out what he liked.

Back On The Job

Now, you don’t always have to do detective work to find out your employees’ personal recognition preferences and their likes and dislikes. 

I recommend sitting down with each employee for a 10 to 15 minute informal meeting to find out about what they do and don’t like around recognition. You can even ask their feelings about recognition you’ve previously given to them. 

  • Did you express recognition meaningfully to them? 
  • Were you aware of their desires for public or private recognition? 
  • How much care did you put into selecting a tangible token of appreciation?
  • How well recognized did they feel afterward?

When you recognized them and they didn’t like what you said or did, ask and find out why. Learn what you could have done to make the recognition better.

Identification Tools to Use

Create a checklist of items to help and guide you in asking the right questions. You can check off preference lists items as you ask about their favorite foods and drinks. Learn what their hobbies and interests are, and their favorite sports and if they are fans of a specific sports team, etc.

If you have time, you can use more formal tools such as the Managing by Appreciation Inventory based upon Gary Chapman and Paul White’s book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. This gives you insight into their preferences regarding the five languages. 

For example, one employee may like Words of Affirmation as their primary language and Quality Time as their secondary language.  This would suggest taking care with how you express your recognition to them and making sure you give expressions of appreciation. You could find out if they want more one-on-one time with you as their manager or whether they wish to be with their peers more often. 

You may discover which employees appreciate public recognition where they are asked to come forward and be in the limelight as you recognize them. I know one employee at my company who requested that our CEO present their career milestone award to them one-on-one in their office versus on stage in front of the entire company

Be An Active Listener and Observer

Become more attentive in your conversations with employees at breaks and lunchtimes. Make a note of the little things that slip out even in meetings that identify their personal interests and things they like.

Whether on the shop floor, open office cubicles, or regular offices, note photographs, certificates, trophies, sports team memorabilia, and other fun items on display. These may show a preferred recognition item or lead you to a conversation to pursue further.

I think the key to finding out how people want recognition, is to be genuinely concerned about them and have ongoing conversations with them to help you know how to give effective recognition they will find meaningful.

Recognition Reflection: When was the last time you noted one new thing about an employee’s recognition preferences? 

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