People Are Watching To See How You Recognize Others

Employees know if you are an exemplary leader at giving recognition. 

They even tally up in their minds who you have recognized and who you haven’t. You’ll find there is a collective psyche that calculates if you have a positive or negative relationship strength with your employees or not. 

The quality and level of this relationship strength affects how recipients and peers perceive the recognition. 

Are people watching how you recognize employees? What would their observations say about the recognition you give to people? How do you measure up in the eyes of your employees? 

Always Watching You 

Marjolein Feys, and her colleagues at the Department of Personnel Management, Work and Organizational Psychology, at Ghent University, in Ghent, Belgium, found some interesting things happen when you give recognition but have not maintained a positive relationship with all of your employees.

Employee recognition may have negative effects on other employees’ emotions and their interpersonal behavior towards their peers, even to inciting interpersonal counterproductive behavior. 

If an employee witnesses coworkers receiving recognition, it may lead to either positive emotions or negative emotions on the one hand, or to maladaptive interpersonal behaviors. 

It’s just like Roz, the character in the Pixar animated movie, Monsters, Inc., where she says, “I’m watching you, Wazowski. Always watching. Always.” Employees are always watching the givers of recognition and who gets recognized. 

Feys’ group found that the relationship quality between the giver and receiver of recognition will moderate the relation between other-oriented recognition and having a positive affect or not.  If there was a positive relationship between the giver and receiver, then the quality of recognition was perceived as high. But when there is negative relationshiship strength, then the quality of recognition is low. 

So, you might give well intentioned recognition to Employee “A” using an online recognition program. But if you have a negative relationship with Employee “B” and they see or learn about the recognition you gave Employee “A”, it could create negative morale and disrupt Employee “B’s” work performance.

If this negativity spreads from Employee “B” to other peers of Employee “A”, the recognition they received becomes a burning reminder that other employees dislike their boss. The recognition now becomes a negative even to Employee “A”. 

The key to solving this problem is to work hard at developing a positive relationship strength with a majority of your employees. It will strengthen the value and perception of the recognition you give. And it will thwart the spreading of negativity among other employees.

Recognition Reflection: How do you develop a positive relationship strength with employees?

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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