How To Give Recognition to Teams the Right Way

It’s just as important to acknowledge the teams you work with, as it is to give individuals the recognition they deserve.

But, somehow, because of human nature, and sometimes a lack of proper management, you can end up with team dynamics that impede feeling good about team recognition.

For example, team members often ask the questions, “What if one team member doesn’t pull their weight on a work project and yet their included in the team recognition?”

It seems many issues crop up with team-based recognition. What are you supposed to do? How can you give people on teams proper recognition?

Principles of Team-Based Recognition

First thing to keep in mind with team-based recognition is you’re talking about teams so you must recognize the entire team.

If there are problems with a team member underperforming and apparently not deserving of recognition, then you have a performance management problem and not a recognition problem.

Performance management issues are ongoing and need intervention through coaching, planning, and feedback. If a team member is not doing all they should do, you can always remove them from the team. There is a tendency not to do this in the workplace but it is an immediate solution.

Prevent these recognition inequity issues by creating clear expectations and having role descriptions drawn up in writing. Discuss these roles with each team member prior to starting a project and gain their personal input and agreement to what’s outlined. 

Ask their ideas on the best ways to work together and suggest ideas for effective collaboration methods to achieve the team goals. Acknowledge the diversity of team members and look to the strengths of each individual. Accept that successful work outputs will look different from one person to that of another but collectively contributes solidly.

Hold regular team reviews to ensure expectations are being met and they will reach timelines. Managers and team leads can hold one-on-one meetings with each team member to ensure there are no incompatibility issues and everyone works well together. This ensures performance equity is present and that any team recognition truly is a team effort.

Outstanding Performers on a Team

What about recognizing individuals on a team? Is that appropriate to do?

Always remember that you are dealing with teams so always start with teams before individuals. 

Whether or not you are a sports fan, all of us can probably relate to using team sports as an analogy for work teams and recognizing teams. Teams either win or lose. One team ends up with more points or goals than the other team, or they are the best of all the teams and win the pennant, trophy, or perhaps medals.

So the team wins the game. But notice how with the sports scenario they often acknowledge the Most Valuable Player. This is the team member who, without question, contributed the most to the whole team winning. 

The key to dealing with outstanding individuals is to first acknowledge the entire team first. Commend team members for their overall performance success in the goals reached and task completed. Single out each team members for their specific participation and share how their contribution made a difference to the whole team. Again, always align the positive actions of individuals back to the team.

Recognition of the team always exceeds that of each team member or any one individual whose performance shines over everyone else’s.

Work hard at creating high-performing teams so that team recognition naturally happens with no recognition inequity occurring.

Recognition Reflection: What have you done to manage perceived recognition inequity on your teams?

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.

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