What Happens When People Are Not Recognized?

In my training sessions I ask managers in attendance different questions to help them get grounded about employee recognition. I also want to discern how aware they are of the impact a lack of recognition has on their employees.

What I can assure you is, a large majority of managers already know that unrecognized employees are at risk.

The most common factor identified is that unrecognized employees will lack motivation, are demotivated, or have no motivation at all. This leads to underperformance or low performance. 

Most managers realize that when employees are not appreciated it will frustrate them, they become unhappy, and could well be looking for another job so are at risk of leaving the company.

In fact, research by Dr. Jean-Pierre Brun at the Université Laval in Quebec City, found that the absence of employee recognition is the second leading cause of workplace burnout and stress, right after workload.

Affects on Others

Here’s an interesting thought to reckon with. How do unrecognized employees affect their peers?

Unrecognized employees can undermine the work of others. They don’t even feel a part of the team because there’s no team spirit. Their skills and talents are not fully utilized. And they can’t help but have a negative energy about them towards peers, managers, and the company at large. Unrecognized employees tend not to recognize their colleagues either.

Affect on Individual

Individually, managers reported that employees not receiving adequate recognition, or no recognition at all, feel lost in the team or company and can become careless about their work. They lack the initiative to try things because they don’t feel trusted. 

When you’re not feeling valued as a person or for what you’re doing you can’t help but become dissatisfied with your work. You lose meaning in your work and become disengaged.

Disengaged employees tend to slow down and perform only routine work and don’t go above and beyond. Why should they? No one notices and no one ever says anything. There’s a lack of spirit and enthusiasm, which generates a lack of creativity, a lack of loyalty, no fun, and even a feeling of fear. 

That’s when the emotional, psychological, and physical toll eats at an employee’s health. Depression can be ever present along with anger. Sickness and health problems can emerge whether real or imagined. Then comes the high cost of absenteeism—all of which is preventable.

Emotional Toll

Imagine waking up each morning and having no interest to go to work.  You find yourself getting easily upset at others. You’re irritable, withdrawn, and lonely. You have internally resigned yourself that this is the way your managers are and how the company is run. Nothing will ever change. No one will ever appreciate you.

You’re insecure, your self-esteem is low, you’ve become passive in nature, and you feel no respect.

Instead of just listing all the words and phrases that managers generated I tried to combine many of the thoughts and paint a picture for you of how many employees feel and perform when unrecognized. Managers have created similar lists of the negative impact of no recognition around the world.

And this is only a tiny part of the lists of words and thoughts I’ve collected from managers.

Managers are already emotionally attuned to the negative effects of no recognition. They need to have open forums where they can communicate what they know with other managers. By being more transparent with one another they can better accept the role they play in solving this tragedy.

Recognition Reflection: What opportunities do you provide your managers so they can openly share with one another the challenges they face in being good people managers?

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