How to Give Recognition Without Sounding Fake!


WARNING: Giving recognition the wrong way may be dangerous to the wellbeing of those you work with.

Giving recognition the wrong way is very easy to do. Let’s capture some quick examples of giving recognition the wrong way.

  • Using generic tried and true phrases like, “well done!” or “good job!” as if they meant a lot.
  • Not giving a person your full attention or looking at your smartphone while supposedly expressing “heartfelt appreciation” to them.
  • Giving glowing praises and smiles on stage at a recognition event while totally ignoring the same employee during the workday.
  • How about dumping an employee’s 15-year service award gift on their desk still in its original shipping package.
  • Presenting an award using the person’s legal name instead of the name everyone knows her by.
  • Treating recognition like a checklist or quota allocation and glibly giving positive feedback to everyone once a week whether they need it or not.

That was all fairly easy to accomplish. Very little effort or thought required.

What Does Good Recognition Look Like?

People who give good recognition put time and effort into how they express themselves. You’ll also find their actions are very caring and they are so thoughtful with how they show appreciation. Recognition done the right way does take some time – invest wisely.

Good recognizers are keen observers of people and behaviors. They don’t miss a thing. And when someone does something amazing they are equally excited to comment and commend them.

Enjoy looking out for the many instances of great actions deserving appreciation.

When you’re in an appreciative mindset you can’t help thank people specifically for what they did and tell them how you or others benefited from their actions. Generic phrases disappear out the window. They don’t cut it anymore.

NOTE: If you have a hard time ridding yourself of using generic phrases, you are hereby given permission to still use them…so long as you add very specific comments afterwards.

People who recognize well have learned to tap into their own emotions, even if they were not naturally inclined to do so before. They draw upon feelings of empathy to better understand what others are going through. And they immerse themselves in gratitude so they fully appreciate all that is going on in their lives.

They know full well that if someone else desires to feel appreciated for their contributions, they should make the time to say or do something for that person. And they should do that even if they personally don’t feel a need to be recognized themselves.

Being fully present allows recognizers to know how a person likes to be called, as far as their preferred name. If they have a hard time with languages or pronouncing a foreign name watch how well they do at getting it right – because they know it is important.

Respect will always be foundational in every aspect of their life and how they treat people. This spills over into respecting how a person likes to be recognized whether publicly or a private one-on-one exchange.

 Do Not Make Recognition A Procedure

Procedures are extremely helpful with solving problems and dealing with mechanical or routine needs. Checklists are great for simplifying complex issues or handling mundane tasks.

Recognition is not a problem, nor a complex issue and definitely not something mundane.

Giving recognition the right way is an expectation of being fully human. It is a learned and developed practice by doing and expressing what is in your heart.

You feel appreciation for those around you and so you express it to them. They know they are recognized or appreciated because they feel something too. Recognition giving is something you live and learn to become. Don’t make it a list.

Basic Elements of “Real Recognition”

  1. Develop an attitude of thanks and gratitude by reflecting in a journal each day on what you are grateful for. At least stop and think who needs to be thanked today.
  2. Recognition is about people not things. Don’t get distracted by the need to give people something. You will know if you need to give a token of appreciation or not.
  3. Personalize the recognition you give to people by having fun with the words you use to express appreciation. Think how you could put a smile on their face with what you say or do. Remember they are amazing!
  4. Never give a gift or an award alone. Always accompany it with meaningfully expressed words – whether spoken or a written note.

Q: How do you strive to be authentic with giving recognition to people?

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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