Disruption of Recognition Programs by Your Leaders

Allen Saunders, an American writer and journalist first coined the line “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” back in a 1957 Reader’s Digest article.

Sometimes this happens to you and I who work in the recognition space. Things will happen at work by people that negatively disrupts the good you are busy planning with your recognition programs and initiatives.

And nothing is worse than when it is a leader who is the disruptor of your recognition programs and plans.

Consider these tactics for handling the inevitable negative, disruptive leader.

Potential Leader Disruptors and Corrective Tactics

1. Lack of program involvement. Not adding their voice or input to recognize staff and always having an assistant send out recognition messages to employees for positive actions and behaviors reported to them.

This is an actual scenario I heard from a vice president sitting around a boardroom table with their peers. They didn’t see why they had to use the recognition programs themselves to express recognition to employees. True story.

Corrective Tactic: Check out your leader’s scores for employee recognition questions on the engagement or pulse check surveys and make them aware of how they are doing. Word will soon get out if they are not the real recognizer. Remind these leaders that those who give better recognition have more positive employee relationships. Positive employee relationship strength leads to higher engagement and better performance results.

2. Delegating everything to assistants. Operating in hands-off manner with your programs and delegating program nomination approvals to their assistant.

You and I know that when a nomination based program has rewards attached to them you have to get the manager above the nominator to approve them. Once the manager approves the nomination, they release it to the nominator and send it to the employee.

Corrective Tactic: Show these leaders that their role is not only an administrative function. It’s a chance for the leader see the great things employees are doing. They can reach out to the nominated employee and thank them for living the corporate values, achieving the specific performance results, or showing exemplary customer service. 

3. Ignoring external accomplishments. Some leaders lose out by not honoring or recognizing employees who have received professional awards or accreditation from professional associations, or the community, for their exceptional service or achievements.

Heard just yesterday of an employee who had received a major recognition award from their professional association. Yet even when they informed their leader they heard nothingfrom them and received no positive acknowledgement. This is a lost recognition opportunity.

Corrective Tactic: Suggest their assistants can help them monitor emails or verbal reports received on employee accolades, accomplishments, or awards. Leaders can then carve out time in their schedule to visit with the employee, or to phone or write them and share their genuine messages of commendation.

4. Not being fully present. I hear this happening when leaders bypass employees in the hallway and don’t even acknowledge them. They seem to ignore them and don’t even greet them whether at work or outside of work. But then they are all smiles and friendly when on the stage and handing out achievement or milestone awards to the same employees.

Corrective Tactic: You must make Leaders aware of what employees are saying about them and their lack of warmth and connection. Have leaders learn to make appropriate eye contact with employees they pass by, to smile at them, and give greetings to staff. They need to be the same person on stage as they are offstage. I have always loved the thought when you are in the room, be in the room. Leaders must be fully present.

5. Making brash decisions. Leaders often globally cut recognition and reward budgets without looking strategically first. For example, what would be the least invasive amount of money to cut or which programcould be reducedor eliminated with the minimal impact.

Corrective Tactic: When budgets must be reduced, and sometimes there are very real economic and business reasons, there needs to be more care and planning put in place. Care comes by listening and preparing for how employees will react to any program reductions or cuts. Leaders must acknowledge those feelings and know how to respond empathetically. Planning must happen as far as what you can do with the remaining recognition programs and what you will do to honor and recognize staff in the new reality. This may be a time to focus more on recognition practices than recognition programs.

6. Not using rewards the right way. Sometimes leaders can come across as too liberal with the use of the rewards available through company programs. They purposely circumvent your program structure and criteria for reward levels and give higher reward amounts than you deemed as appropriate. This can lead to an entitlement mentality where employees only seek rewards versus sincere recognition of their actions.

Corrective Tactic: First, I think these leaders need to know the difference between rewards and recognition. You can give recognition without having to give a reward. But when you give a reward, you must always accompany it with real recognition.

Second, you need to collaborate with these leaders on what the criteria should be for the right reward for the right results. How will you measure such performance so there is consistency across leaders and managers? Consensus will lead to uniformity. Then leaders must be heldaccountable. 

I think it is critical that as soon as you observe a negative disruption of your recognition programs by a leader you must act on it right away. 

Find out why they did what they did. Level set by stating what the intended expectations are of the recognition program. Give them candid feedback on how someone can interpret the leader’s actions to mean and the effect that has on others. Educate them on what they need to be doing and why. And finally, make sure you acknowledge and recognize your leaders for whenever they use your organization’s recognition programs the right way.

Recognition Reflection: In what ways do our leaders negatively disrupt our recognition programs?

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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