How to Overcome Emotional Barriers to Recognition Giving

It can be hard to uncover your learner’s emotions while helping them learn how to give more effective employee recognition.

This is especially difficult considering how most learning programs rely heavily on cognitive – knowledge infusion or with skill development.

Authentic Recognition relies on feelings or emotions as a critical piece of the abilities required for anybody to become a great recognizer of people. So to become good at recognition giving you first have to connect with your own feelings. I have coined the term “ASTRA Effect” to address this need. Each letter of the word ASTRA stands for Appreciate Self To Recognize Another.

Getting connected with your emotions requires following many principles espoused by leaders in the field of Emotional Intelligence, like Daniel Goldman, author of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

Let’s examine some typical steps we can all take to become more comfortable with our feelings so we can express better and more positive feedback to others. These steps fall under two broad categories, namely, Understanding Emotions and Expressing Emotions.

Understanding Emotions

  1. Self-Awareness – Self-assessment of emotional intelligence or perceived self-confidence can help generate a baseline indicator. In addition, 360° feedback is a powerful tool to learn how others read you at work. Remember, perceptions are real in the eyes of the beholder.
  2. Emotional Discrimination – Whether self-reflection or using more concrete actions like journaling and tallying emotions experienced during a day, discover what feelings you experience at work and learn what makes you tick.
  3. Other Awareness – Next is moving away from yourself and becoming “other” focused. Simply stop, look, and listen to the people you work with. Ask questions and listen. Monitor your ratio for listening versus talking. Watch non-verbal expressions and clarify by asking questions like, “I sense you’re frustrated when you were talking about the redesign process.”
  4. Observation Skills – If you want to catch people doing things right you have to go out and play catch. Prioritize relationship building and go out and practice management by walking around. Successful leaders like Peter Aceto, CEO of Tangerine, spend more than 50% of their time simply creating positive relationships with the people in their organization.

Expressing Emotions

  1. Motivation and commitment to change – Nothing will change if the leader isn’t willing to change and participate in learning. Try having the manager working with a senior leader and contracting their personal learning commitment to improving their interpersonal skills as a means to facilitate transfer of learning back to the workplace.
  2. Peer or mentor support – Some managers state getting connected on an emotional level in the workplace sounds too “touchy-feely”. Overcome this perception by organizing colleague groups and share their experiences together. Or have a senior leader coach learners along the learning curve to create needed support and leverage progress.
  3. Practice expressing recognition – A common barrier to recognition giving, is not knowing how to do it or exactly what to say. There are many nuances of interpersonal communications and these skills must be learned. One example is to become more specific with expressions of what a person did and how their contribution made a difference versus simply saying “good job.”
  4. Mastering expressing recognition – Managers must learn to be in the moment and be willing to solicit and accept feedback on how they are progressing in giving positive feedback and recognition to employees. This requires inner changes like being humble enough to adapt and adopt the principles and comments received from others.

It is important for each of us to learn how to “feel”. As we develop our abilities to recognize our emotional strengths we can better express our feelings to others. Recognition is a felt phenomenon based upon positive relationships. Experiment with learning how to understand and express your emotions and become better recognizers along the way.

Question: How have you overcome your emotional challenges with recognizing 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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