Employee Recognition Promotes Positive Psychological Functioning

We should all know what employee recognition is but what exactly is positive psychological functioning? How can recognition help promote a psychologically healthy workplace?

Positive psychological functioning is all about having available the right resources and supports needed for employees to function properly in the workplace. You can also call this psychological health and safety.

The American Psychological Association suggests the main characteristics of organizations that promote employee health and well-being are: employee involvement, work-life balance, employee growth and development, health and safety, and employee recognition.

The European Institute of “Great Place to Work” has analyzed the characteristics of best workplaces and found them to be places that care about relationships based on: pride (you feel proud of the company you work for and of your job within it), camaraderie (enjoying the people you work with), and trust (which includes: fairness, credibility, and respect).

So, how does recognition impact this whole construct of positive psychological functioning?

A Strong Correlation

Spanish researchers, Dolores Merino and Jesús Privado, from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, found that employee recognition is correlated with promoting positive psychological functioning. They also found out that the absence of receiving employee recognition worsens positive psychological functioning.

They used several self-reported measures of positive psychological functioning and well-being. Employees had to complete a booklet that had the Satisfaction with Life Scale and the Subjective Happiness Scale to measure well-being. The authors designed the Positive Psychological Functioning Scale to measure this specific area. This scale has 33 items measuring 11 psychological key resources, which comprise: autonomy, resilience, self-esteem, purpose in life, enjoyment, optimism, curiosity, creativity, humor, environmental mastery, and vitality.

The resulting implication from this study is that a lack of recognition leads to the deterioration of a worker’s available psychological resources.  And this means it could affect an employee’s psychological health and performance.

However, they also discovered that the relationship between employee recognition and well-being is only indirectly affected. Any impact that comes from employee recognition is mediated by the strength of a person’s existing positive psychological functioning.

From this study we learn:

  1. Employee recognition influences the creation of positive environments.
  2. Positive environments strengthen an employee’s positive psychological functioning, often referred to as their psychological resources.
  3. It’s the consequence of having positive psychological functioning that leads to subjective improvement of an employee’s well-being.

Source of the Recognition Has Different Impact

Here’s an interesting fact that came out of Merino and Privado’s research.  They could show that recognition originating from co-workers had twice the impact (0.39) on positive psychological functioning than recognition from supervisors (0.20) did. However, neither the recognition from supervisors or from co-workers explained an employee’s level of well-being.

Again, it is important to remember that the effect of employee recognition on well-being is mediated by positive psychological functioning.

This should encourage you in promoting social recognition programs and other programs that employees can access to acknowledge their peers with. You should teach employees how to express recognition to validate their peers and value the work of their fellow workers.

Examine your existing recognition programs carefully and see how well they‘re known, understood, easily accessible, and easy to use. Should specific informal recognition practices be initiated? Not every recognition interaction has to be high-tech.

I am not ignoring the need for supervisory and management recognition of employees. Their recognition is definitely important. It is just interesting to see the varied impact based on the source of recognition. This is especially the case since many organizations have reduced management levels and increased the number of employee teams.

What was interesting was how they measured recognition from their supervisors and peers. The researchers asked employees about two items measured on a 9-point Likert scale. Supervisory recognition was measured asking, “My supervisors consider me a valuable worker.” The employee recognition was measured using the statement, “My co-workers value my work”.

It is certainly an interesting study to draw upon considering the increasing demand to examine psychological health and safety in the workplace.

Recognition Reflection: How are you measuring the impact of recognition and its impact on employee psychological health and well-being?

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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