How to Deal with Managers Who Don’t See a Need to Change

We’ve all seen them in action. Some of us even report to one.

These are the managers who don’t seem to want to change their behavior. In our recognition scenario, these are the managers who don’t recognize their direct reports, let alone anyone else working around them.

How are you supposed to get a manager like this to change? 

Identify the Reason Why They’re Not Recognizing People

Ask them if they are aware of the expectation for them to be appreciating their employees and recognizing them for when they do good work done well. This two-way dialogue will go a long way to learning about their thinking.

In all seriousness, they may have “missed the memo” or were away the day they held the management team meeting where the CEO announced the need to improve the level of recognition given. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they never heard the expectation to recognize people. 

Yes, I know you thought giving recognition was automatic with those who are people managers. But not everyone has these skill sets, and it is definitely a needed skill.

Provide Them with Candid and Helpful Feedback

If you find out they know, then it is time that you, or whoever they report to, gives them essential feedback on them not sufficiently recognizing the people they work with. Hit the reset button and educate them on the expectation for recognizing staff.

It is essential that you be very specific about what it is you want managers to do. Some people will think “recognition equals rewards” and then begin only giving tangible or monetary rewards.

Remind them that recognition is mostly an intangible expression of acknowledgment and valuing of a person or team, for their positive behaviors, their personal effort, and the contributions they make on the job.

According to Dr. BJ Fogg in his recent book Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything, you must show them exactly what they should do. Provide them with varied examples that will act as prompts for giving recognition. In this way, your examples will prompt the manager so that whenever they see a positive action, behavior, or customer service experience, they will provide an expression of gratitude and acknowledgment of what they saw.

Remove the Barriers to Giving Recognition

Find out what is holding them back from giving recognition.

If they believe this “recognition stuff” is pointless then you know you have a belief problem.

Using Harvard Business School’s Professor John P. Kotter’s work on Leading Change, work on changing their beliefs. You do this far easier than you think. You must show them a truth that influences their feelings, and this is what will impact their beliefs. 

Don’t convince them by just showing the latest engagement scores or other statistics. Kotter states, “People change what they do less because they are given an analysis that shifts their thinking than because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings.”

How do you show people a truth around recognition? Use focus groups and collect employee feedback on how recognized employees feel. Or more ideally, with employee consent, capture video vignettes of positive or negative recognition experiences.

Review the written comments or playback the videos to influence their feelings and impact their beliefs. 

Make Recognition Easier to Do Than People Think

You might have to lower the perception of the difficulty in giving recognition. Like how some people don’t want to receive recognition, some people have a hard time giving recognition.

As I point out in my workshops and presentations, it takes less than 1.2 seconds to say the words, “Thank you!” You may also have to show a reluctant manager how to give people proper recognition, and that it takes less than 15 seconds to do this. Remove the perceived difficulty they have of recognizing others.

Now create a logbook approach and have them record the story around recognizing their direct reports and others around them. Prove to them by reviewing their reports and what they said or did, that recognition becomes easier when it is repeated.

Remember that if people think giving recognition is hard to do, then the act of giving recognition will be less likely to happen.

Once you see these managers become positive examples of recognition giving, make sure to personally encourage them and recognize them for their positive changes. And give feedback to the leader over them of these changes and invite this leader to acknowledge the manager for their recognition efforts.

Recognition Reflection: How do you deal with managers who neglect or refuse to recognize their employees?

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