How To Overcome the 5 Most Common Barriers To Recognition

There are lot of things that can stop us from giving people the recognition they deserve.

I am going to give you the 5 most common barriers that people have given me as to why they don’t give recognition and I promise not to leave you hanging without some answers.

In fact, you will leave reading this blog post with solutions to overcoming each of these 5 barriers.

Here are the barriers:

  • Lack of time
  • Not knowing your people
  • Don’t know how to give recognition
  • No expectation to give it
  • Taking good work for granted

Pull out a note pad, open up a page on your touch screen tablet device or computer, and decide what you are going to do to remove at least one of these barriers from your life and vocabulary.

1. Lack of Time

No matter where in the world I have consulted or presented to, the most common barrier people give me for not recognizing others is a lack of time.

Here’s the irony about this barrier. If you were to time yourself giving someone genuine recognition you will see that it takes less than one or two minutes. Even just saying the words, “Thank you!” takes no longer than 2 seconds.

The reality is, not having time is really an excuse and not a reason. Using the lack of time card is a symptom of something else. It always reflects an underlying reason such as discomfort giving recognition, lack of skills, not knowing the value to employees, and many other things.

Quick Solutions

Get rid of the notion that recognition giving is something else you have to do on top of everything else on your plate. Instead, integrate recognition into everything you are already doing now.

  • Start expressing gratitude and appreciation in your emails to people rather than forgetting to use such words.
  • Whenever you see something positive being done at work just stop and acknowledge that person rather than totally ignoring it.
  • Become more aware of how people assist you on the job and genuinely thank those around you when they help you.
  • And why not start off a staff meeting with recognizing someone when it is merited rather than putting it at the end of the meeting agenda where it could get bumped.

2. Not Knowing Your People

It certainly is nice to know something about the people you work with so you can give them more meaningful recognition.

However, not knowing anything about your people does not excuse you from not recognizing them when they do something well and make a positive contribution.

Your act of recognition might not be given in as meaningful a way as you would like, but it will still have meaning to them that you actually acknowledged them.

Quick Solutions

  • Take 10-15 minutes in a one-on-one meeting to find out the recognition preferences of each employee.
  • Develop a simple survey with questions to identify people’s recognition likes and dislikes so you can be better prepared.
  • With all the insights you’ve gained make sure you act upon what employees have shared with you or else any recognition attempts will be done in vain.

3. Don’t know how to give recognition

Don’t worry about not knowing how to give recognition well. Very few people really know how to give meaningful and effective recognition to people naturally.

Some of us were raised in homes where expressions of love, praise and acknowledgment were regular and often daily occurrences.

I grew up in England and my father never heard the words “I love you” in his home and that example led to my never hearing it from him either.

Quick Solutions

  • Check out the many recognition practices under the Recognition Practices tab of this blog for examples and ways to give recognition the right way.
  • Try one of these recognition practices out for at least a couple of weeks and perhaps for a month to master the attitude and skills behind the idea.
  • Once you learn how to do these recognition practices well you will have no excuse not to recognize those you work with.

4. No expectation to give it

Hopefully your senior leaders and management team are committed to being better at giving authentic and meaningful recognition to everyone within the organization.

Ideally, it would be good to have an executive sponsor tell everyone in the company that they have permission to recognize one another and set a personal example in doing so themselves.

Communicating this expectation can be all that is needed to start the ball rolling.

Quick Solutions

  • Create a communication campaign to build awareness of the importance of employee recognition and challenge everyone to become better at giving one another the recognition they deserve.
  • Have some leader set the expectation that recognition is about valuing people and their contributions.
  • And don’t forget to set a personal expectation for yourself to become better recognizers of everyone you associate with at work.

5. Taking good work for granted

Unfortunately, there are some folks who think recognition is only given to people for the outstanding and exceptional actions and results achieved.

Not so.

If we only give recognition to the stars of the show we would neglect the behind the scene workers whose consistent performance actually makes the show run at all.

Quick Solutions

  • Stop and recognize people for their consistent and positive efforts they do each and every single day.
  • As my friend David Zinger from the Employee Engagement Network would say, engagement is about “good work done well with others every day.” Become a good finder and acknowledge anyone who is doing good work done well each day.
  • Make it a goal to find those less acknowledged people and thank them for their service. I realized I had never talked to our garbage collector or thanked him for his every week pick up of my trash. So I made the time to meet and greet him at the curb. In thanking him for what he does each week I saw he left with a smile on his face.

Question: How do you plan to overcome some of the barriers that stop you from 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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