Why Are We So Uncomfortable Giving Recognition to People?

I have traveled around the world and presented or consulted with managers and leaders from 14 countries across a variety of industries on the subject of giving meaningful and effective employee recognition.

Yet, in all these situations there was a common problem experienced by many of these managers and leaders.

Many of them were uncomfortable with giving recognition to peers or employees.

I have heard a long litany of reasons for their apparent discomfort. Perhaps by examining the different reasons people give for their discomfort we can learn what we can do to rectify these situations and become more comfortable in recognizing those we work with.

Let’s examine a few of these discomfort reasons.

Reasons for Being Uncomfortable with Recognition Giving

These are a few of the reasons collected from participants in our workshop sessions on how to give meaningful, memorable, and motivational recognition to people. See if you can relate to why people say they have a hard time recognizing people.

1. I don’t know how to give recognition.  

It’s true that many of us just don’t know how to give recognition to people the right way. 

We may not have received much praise or recognition at home growing up or during our school experience. With that lack of familiarity and exposure on how to say or give recognition, comes a lack of confidence in acknowledging people, especially publicly.

The good news is that recognition is a learned behavior and each of us can learn the correct skills and practices needed to give effective recognition to others.

Check under the Recognition Practices category on this blog to learn more about getting proficient at recognition giving.

2. We don’t have the time.

This is the number one reason people give for not recognizing those they work with—a lack of time. 

The irony is recognition does not take a lot of time to give. Saying just the words, “Thank you!” for example takes just 1.2 seconds. And while I am not suggesting you go around saying only the words, “Thank you”, even positive expressions that specifically identify and recognize a person’s actions and the impact they made, you are still looking at under 15 seconds using the spoken word.

Time is more often an excuse than a valid reason. They are excusing their inability to respect, and value, and regard what someone has done or anything about another person. The “no time” card is most likely their rationalization for their discomfort in not knowing how to express or show appreciation to someone.

3.    Not used to recognition.  

It is often said that if you don’t receive recognition often, then you don’t know how to give it, and you end up not giving it at all. 

In one breath I can relate to that. Growing up as a child of British parents, and knowing how they were raised, I heard no expressions of love and affection at home. When I first met my wife-to-be I had a hard time saying, “I love you” to her. But what I had to learn was that if someone needs to hear those meaningful expressions in their life, then I had to learn how to say them and mean it.

So, while those who probably should acknowledge your contributions may not recognize you frequently enough, don’t let those people be your excuse for not recognizing those you work with.

4. We are too busy and so we forget to recognize people.

Yes, our workloads and other priorities can eat away at our available time.

However, if you can get more comfortable in showing appreciation to people and expressing recognition, then you’ll be more confident to do it the minute you see people doing positive things. Don’t wait—say something right away.

And, you might have to plan in some recognition giving.  We all consume the same time in a day, but how well do we use it?  Where is the priority, where is the focus? When you prioritize relationships first and place tasks second, recognition giving becomes so much easier to make time for.

Don’t let things, get ahead of, people. You may have to cue yourself during your day to make time to recognize people—go out and speak to people, or make time to use your social recognition program, and even stop to write handwritten notes to people.

The fascinating thing about being uncomfortable about anything is that the more often you try to do that thing the easier it gets. Recognition giving improves when you improve giving recognition.

Recognition Reflection: What are you doing in your organization to help people overcome their discomfort with giving recognition?

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