Teaching People to Give Recognition Should Be Easy, Right?

Recognition is such a positive thing to give and receive that you would think teaching people how to give recognition to others should be easy. 

But different studies such as from Gallup show that only a third of employees ever receive recognition in any week for doing outstanding work. 

People always submit lots of reasons as an explanation for this recognition deficit. However, one dominant answer is not knowing how to give recognition to people the right way.

Adam Grant, the award-winning researcher and Wharton School professor, gives a probable reason teaching people to give recognition is not as easy as we think it is. From his research and book, Give and Take, he shows that in our interactions with others most people operate as either takers, matchers, or givers. 

Takers work at getting as much as they can from others while matchers look to evenly trade between one another. It’s the givers who are the rare breed of people who contribute to others expecting nothing in return. 

It would appear from this research that perhaps giving recognition is already easier for those who are natural givers than for those who are takers or matchers. 

What can we learn from these givers that can help us teach all types of employees to more easily give recognition? 

Givers Give Recognition Without Being Taught 

The premise of Grant’s book is that if you focus your attention and energy on making a difference in the lives of others, that success will follow as a by-product. Some people lock themselves into the behaviors they are used to.

  • Takers view success as attaining results superior to others.
  • Matchers see success to balance individual accomplishments with fairness to others.
  • Givers view success as individual achievements that have a positive impact on others. 

You can visit Adam Grant’s site to take his Give and Take assessment to figure out what type you are right here

For givers it’s about giving recognition to people because you can and because it is the right thing to do.  

Givers are more accountable for doing the right things well. For them, accountability is about having high standards for themselves and setting expectations of positive behaviors like catching people doing things right. 

People who you thought might be givers, according to Grant, tend to have greater empathy towards others. They’ve walked the same path, and they strive to understand another person’s perspective and do so in a non-judgmental way. 

Givers are respectful people and show dignity for others by honoring the fundamental worth of each person. They appreciate people for who they are, independent of their role or performance.

And they value the contributions that people make, no matter what level or position they hold within the organizations. For them, it is a matter of if they see something good and positive, it binds them to say or do something bout it. They are mindful to always recognize people for things people do. They are seeking to understand the difference or impact that people’s actions make. 

How To Become a Giver to Give Recognition 

To become a Giver and recognition giver will require changing a few habits. 

Move to more listening versus talking. For example, if you do most of the talking in conversations and meetings, set a goal to do more listening. Actively listening allows you to learn more and contribute more with ideas and solutions, even if it is later on. Set a goal to only speak 20 percent of the time in meetings. Take great notes and reflect on what you are hearing and then give a succinct and decisive perspective as your commentary. 

Use advice seeking instead of self-promotion. Givers know that life is not all about them, so they don’t have to blow their own horn or always promote what they are doing. The switch you need to make is on seeking advice from others about things you are working on. This will give you ample opportunity to thank those around you and provide insight on how you can assist others from what you learn through your interactions. 

Ask more questions versus advocating your point of view. You will also become more focused on asking good questions rather than always advocating things from a “look what I know” point of view. Manager of top performing teams balance out the number of questions they ask and seeking advice statements from others to the number of advocacy statements. In contrast, managers of low-performing teams use only 5 interrogative or question statements for every 100 advocacy statements, which sounds like they are might be takers. 

Start emails each day by expressing gratitude. Work at emailing or expressing gratitude out to someone whenever you start work before opening up your inbox. Also, tell people in your email requests how grateful you are for their help. When people hear or read expressions of gratitude in your communication, they are more naturally inclined to reciprocate positively.

Sometimes, teaching people to give recognition is more about preparing the person to become givers in all areas of their life. While you thought learning recognition giving would be easy, not everyone is naturally inclined to be a giver. 

Recognition Reflection: What can you do to help people at work become more of a giver type of personality?

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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