Handle Negativity About Recognition Problems as a Gift

Getting complaints about your recognition programs, or having to listen to the naysayers in the room about employee recognition practices, can be a draining and daunting experience to deal with.

One big secret for dealing with negativity around recognition initiatives is to treat each encounter as a gift. I’ll share with you what I mean by this, shortly.

If you can learn how to handle negative feedback about recognition practices and programs in a positive and productive way, you’ll be ready for anything that comes your way.

Recognition Encounters of the Negative Kind

Negatives will come because of the personalities of people, the cultural acceptance of ineffective communication, but foremost because of genuine issues, problems, and concerns with your recognition programs and practices.

Some of the typical concerns, complaints, and conundrums for those who manage recognition programs, can be grouped under occupational or technological constraints.

Occupational constraints

  • Lack of technology access for employees if they work out in the field, in a warehouse, or in a manufacturing plant.
  • No assigned work emails preventing logging in.
  • A toxic work environment that does not endorse recognizing staff.
  • Negative cultural practices not aligned with the mission and values.
  • Lack of strong leadership.
  • Varying levels of techno-literacy.
  • Unfamiliar with interpersonal skills need to give recognition.
  • Managers promoted based on technical competence and not people skills.
  • Stereotypic personality traits of individuals in certain professions.
  • Poor training and orientation on how to use the recognition programs.

Technological constraints

  • Compatible browsers for using the recognition programs.
  • Flash updates not current, while still needed.
  • Not all employees having emails.
  • Having to repeatedly log in with a username and password if not able to provide data for single sign-on access.
  • Complaints of the programs taking too long to access and use.
  • Programs not compatible across all electronic devices.
  • Inability to integrate human resource information data with the system.
  • Lack of participant usage of programs.

Responding to Negative Criticism or Feedback

Have confidence in knowing how to come back to negative people or field their questions the right way. Prepare yourself to always know how to answer them and counter negatives by turning the issues around for the benefit of everyone.

Here are some suggestions for addressing such people and situations.

  1. Respond positively and acknowledge the feedback. When you receive a complaint, a negative viewpoint, or feedback relaying a problematic issue experienced with a recognition program, immediately thank them! This information is a gift.
  2. Realize you have an opportunity to use this information. By using the information given, you’ll be able to prevent reoccurrences of the same problem. A negative viewpoint is helping you see the situation through a new set of eyes. And a complaint is an opportunity to improve the processes involved. What a gift to improve the user experience.
  3. Don’t leave negatives with the surface level comment – dig deeper. Acknowledge the comments and talk with the person to get the full context of their situation. Focus on the behaviors they’re describing or the situation they went through. Never dwell on the personalities. The more objective data you can get, you have saved the gift of time by collecting these details now.
  4. Agree together on what the real problem is. Do your best to clarify and identify points you can agree upon, and even disagree with. Always be civil and respectful. Acknowledge that you cannot do everything to solve a problem and that perhaps together you can prioritize the biggest pain points. Having agreement with an initially negative person is disarming. That’s a gift!
  5. Ask them not to dwell on the negatives or promote them elsewhere. Instead, solicit their input on how they would solve the situation or problem. Explain how each suggestion presented will need data to validate the concerns, be analyzed for proposing ideas, improvements, and solutions. The end goal should be to develop a unified plan for everyone to work on together rather than shifting blame to recognition program owners. By helping them see themselves as part of the solution you have created a gift for the future.
  6. Hold everyone accountable, including the naysayer. Remember, to follow through on your plan and build in accountability for the different partners who will help you implement the ideas, solutions, and tasks to be completed. Make sure to involve the owner of the criticism and then to acknowledge them when a solution has been implemented. The gift of involvement spreads recognition more widely.

Take ownership of how you view negative feedback. Listen and look carefully at the naysayer’s side of the coin for things you could not know – or possibly accept. Help them to see the other side of the coin that you’re most familiar with and gain a whole coin perspective.

Recognition Reflection: When negative comments or feedback are thrown at you about recognition what is your typical response?

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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