Can You Ever Give A Person Too Much Recognition?

During a webinar I conducted a couple of weeks ago, an attendee asked me a question during the Q&A section. I have heard the question asked many times before and you might have heard it yourself.

“Can you ever give someone too much recognition?” 

And because they have asked me this question many times over the years, I could give this individual a quick response. Now, I will share this with you, too.

The Simple Answer 

I always give the simple answer and then explain myself. My answer to this person was, “No!”

You can give the wrong kind of recognition too many times, but not if they do it properly. 

The reason people ask this question is that they think they might overdo it when they learn how to give Real Recognition™ the right way wherever they work. It gets exciting when you are more confident about how to give meaningful and effective recognition. Might you go overboard with recognizing people?

I had already instructed the webinar attendees on how to use the Two-Part Specificity Rule® before this person asked their question of me. This is where instead of saying the mundane “good job,” you begin by specifically acknowledging the individual for their positive Actions and next you specifically tell them the Impact their actions had on someone else. I remind people to think of Action + Impact.

In my response to the questioner, I informed them that there has never been a research study conducted or an engagement survey completed, where a majority of employees came back and said, “please stop giving us so much recognition!” It has mostly been the inverse scenario.

I have only seen one survey that I conducted for a healthcare organization where 1% of the employees who responded said they were recognized “much too frequently.” On the other end of the spectrum, 39% said they were not recognized enough. In reality, the recognition that 1% received too much of, was likely the trite expressions of “good job” or “well done” that had no meaning and were annoying. 

Recent research from the Gallup organization found that 40% of employees report receiving recognition just a few times a year, or less (Gallup, 2022). That’s not very often. And those results don’t even mesh well with Gallup’s Q12 Survey question #4, “In the last 7 days I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.” 

Recognizing More Than Once

Recognition occurs after you have seen someone doing amazing things, or you hear about their great work from someone else. You recognize an employee whose behaviors wowed you or their achieved you want to acknowledge. 

More often than not, managers don’t even see these behaviors and positive results. They don’t interact enough with other managers or their own staff to learn of the remarkable things staff do. This leads to ignoring the great work going on. Hence, employees complain of a lack of recognition.

I emphasized to the person who asked that if they observed an individual several times doing spectacular work that warranted recognition, surely they would still recognize them each time. Going back to the Two-Part Specificity Rule™, you would be equally specific about their actions at each time and inform them of the difference their behaviors had on others.

Seeing someone do two exceptional things in one day would be a rare phenomenon indeed. Even weekly would probably be less likely.

We have found that more people are getting specific about the Action they are recognizing. That’s a good thing. However, some employees have told me they might question the motives of the recognizer. Either that or they fear getting additional work when just left with the Action part.

As soon as you add a statement about the Impact the employee’s actions made on others, a few things occur. 

1. Most times, employees I have spoken to were not even aware of how their actions had made a difference to others. Telling them the Impact their actions had made on specific people was a very positive surprise.

2. On every occasion where a recognizer included the Impact statement in their recognition expression, employees were no longer questioning the motive of the recognition giver. Repeatedly, they shared how much more authentic the recognition was. They believed it.

3. Recognition given in this two-part way helps employees join the dots between their performance and achieving organization goals.

No, you don’t have to worry about giving too much recognition. So long as you give it the right way every time.

Recognition Reflection: How have you addressed the perception of giving too much recognition?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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