How To Overcome Personal Resistance to Giving Recognition

Do you resist giving people recognition?

It’s easy to talk yourself out of recognizing people. Surely someone else will acknowledge them for the great things they do. Why do I have to say something? 

But what if no one stops to recognize people. 

How do you overcome this resistance?

Break Through The Barriers

A typical list of barriers or resistance that managers bring forward as their personal reasons for not recognizing staff usually fall in some order similar to this,

1.    Lack of time.

2.    Not knowing your people.

3.    Don’t know how to give recognition.

4.    No expectations to give recognition.

5.    Taking excellent work for granted. 

In the many companies I have consulted with and the hundreds of managers I have trained in 13 countries, the barrier of time has always been number one. The surveys and focus groups generate similar lists as above all around the globe. 

I will stop the list at five because it always continues on. We create a personal level of resistance to recognizing people. Perhaps it even becomes a level of fear. As an author, Steven Pressfield, highlights in his book The War of Art, the more scared we are of doing something, the surer we can be we have to do it. 

Barrier Breaker Activity

Here are two activities you can do to help overcome some barriers you might have in resisting to recognize others. In this instant, you are mostly in the observing role.

  • Plan what you can do today to go out and visit with peers, or call them up if remote, and find out about the amazing things they are doing in their jobs and in your organization. Become a better observer of great behaviors and actions going on at work.
  • Interview three people individually and ask them to describe an experience where they received recognition that meant so much to them. Make notes from your interviews and record what you learned that made the recognition seem special.

You might feel inclined to actually recognize the people you speak with. Go ahead if you feel moved to do so. More important in this exercise is to feel things. Notice the good that is going on and try to experience what the individuals describe as amazing recognition they received.

The Voice In Your Head

We all run internal scripts in our head that say we are great or lousy at doing different tasks or activities. You know the lines, “I’m not good at this,” “I can’t do this,” “I’ve never been able to do this.” 

This is just like memorizing lines for a play. You can unlearn this negative self-talk that you allow in your head. So, rewrite the script lines and get ready to rehearse positive self-talk in place of the not so good ones, like: 

“I will become good at this.”

“I can do this with positive practice.”

“I will do this with learning and practice.” 

Whenever you make a mistake, your immediate internal response should become, “That’s not like me. I know I can do better. And I will.” 

Voices in Your Head Activity 

  • Okay. Be brave and record a list of all the things you say to yourself in your mind for why you don’t recognize people. Evaluate what you’ve written and ask yourself what your mother would say about your excuses.
  • Write out on paper some handwritten positive self-talk lines you can say to replace when you hear the inner voice say you can’t or shouldn’t recognize people. Perfect practices make perfect, so prepare your inner voice script ahead of time.

Create Inner Wins

No recognizer of people and their employees’ strengths and positive behaviors sets out to be the best recognizer in the world. 

They just express their feelings. Recognition is conveying the positive feelings and emotions you feel for what someone did back to the other person. You want them to feel the same amazement and enthusiasm that you felt.

To express authentic and real recognition to someone you have to have courage and excitement to make people happy about what they do. To give real recognition the right way you have to learn some recognition basics, like:

1.    Be specific with recognizing people’s actions. Be specific in identifying the positive ACTION or behavior a person does when recognizing them verbally or in writing. Refrain from using trite phrases like, “good job,” or “well done,” which have little or no meaning to people.

2.    Be specific with the impact people make. Specifically, state the positive IMPACT a person’s actions or behaviors had on people when recognizing them. Many will never know the difference they’ve made with their actions. Think ACTION + IMPACT.

3.    Always use positive words to express recognition. Choose your words carefully when recognizing people and create a vocabulary list of positive words to use in your recognition. So many words are neutral or negative at worse. Words affect people physically, mentally and emotionally.

You can’t help but feel good when you give recognition to people using these and many other positive communication methods. 

Inner Win Activities 

  • Go out and use these recognition methods and take a notebook or index card, or use a note taking app on your smartphone, and record the reactions of the recipients of your recognition. Write what they said, how they responded, the look on their faces. I am convinced by overcoming the resistance you will record great things. 
  • Take 10-minutes at the end of the day to pause and reflect on people who helped you or made a difference to you in some small way. Either pick up the phone and call them and express your recognition or leave a recognition voice mail or stop and send them an email or a special eCard to thank them and express appreciation. Record how you felt doing these actions. It felt pretty good, didn’t it? 

You have overcome the resistance by doing and giving recognition. Resistance can only be beat by action.

It’s the only way. 

It always has been. 

Recognition Reflection: What do you do to overcome your personal resistance to recognizing people you work with?

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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