Top 10 Fears Stopping Us From Recognizing Others

Many of us can get quite overwhelmed with having to recognize people. For some, it can seem almost fearful. Yet, as Steven Pressfield, in his book, The War of Art explains, “the more scared we are…the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” Which is why I examine closely the Top 10 Fears that hold us back from doing what we all must do…and that is giving others the recognition they deserve.

1. Fear of Rejection. What if you say the wrong things to someone? Maybe an expression of appreciation isn’t received well? No matter. None of the regular things you say on a daily basis are ever perfect soliloquies. Recognition is about others – so give it any way you can. Note that no one ever stops you from recognizing them.

2. Fear of Criticism. Never let any critic hold you back from the art and gift of recognizing others because this comes from inside of you. Let it out! Remember, wherever there are critics there are also encouragers in the wings. Don’t let others stop you from giving people what is rightfully theirs.

3. Fear of Incompetence. Too many people tell me that they don’t know how to give recognition to people, whether verbally or with the written word. The key is to realize recognition is about relationships and that it comes from the heart. Push this fear out of the way and sing people’s praises out loud.

4. Fear of Unprofessionalism. Saying thank you to people and communicating feelings to those who have made contributions is all about them. Recognition is not about professionalism. There are no standards or competency levels to be reached and maintained. You simply have to be yourself with others.

5. Fear of Expectation. There are no little angels from opposing camps on your shoulders telling you what to do or not do or how to share words of appreciation with those you work with. The only real expectation people have is to be respected and valued. Those values alone will let you speak the right words.

6. Fear of Perfectionism. Not one single employee has ever told me how perfect an acknowledgment they received was. The only condemnation heard, is when nothing is said at all. Nada. There is no “one way” to give praise or express appreciation. The perfect thing to actually do is to give freely.

7. Fear of Egocentricity. Oh yes, the fear of doing anything comes right from inside ourselves and limits us from the many pleasurable activities of life. Don’t get too caught up with yourself. Instead, think more about the person needing to be recognized. This is, after all, all about them and not you.

8. Fear of Others. But what will others think if I recognize one person and not the others? Honestly, I’ve heard this way too many times. Don’t ever let “others” both in reality or in your head, determine what you should say or do in any area of your life. Give recognition to one and all and have fun doing so.

9. Fear of Caring. Whoever said it is wrong to care about people at work? We can spend half, or more, of our waking hours at work. It is positive and needful to form caring relationships with others. Scrub this fear from your vocabulary. Instead, use it as a motivational force for caring gratitude.

10. Fear of Weakness. Talking about emotional, warm and fuzzy matters, can be seen by some (especially any macho stereotypic males) as a sign of weakness. The irony is, individuals who have mastered the art and practice of giving positive recognition the right way, are always viewed more positively by other people.

Previously published in Incentive Magazine.

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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2 thoughts on “Top 10 Fears Stopping Us From Recognizing Others

  1. What can be done to manage-up when leaders recognize *another* team member during one-on-one meetings? How can a leader incentivize healthy competition within the team around similar duties of a job but balance their urge to personalize the recognition? It feels like a parent telling their child, “why can’t you be more like Johnny?”

    • Hi Deb:

      Thanks for your interesting comment. I can tell this is a very real concern for you.

      My immediate thoughts without knowing the full context of the situation are:

      1. Keep performance development separate from recognition. Coaching, good questions, and constructive feedback are powerful tools to raise expectations and improve performance. Recognition is purely an expression of acknowledgment and conveying of positive emotions for what someone is doing or appreciating them for who they are.

      2. Incentives are okay for raising a specific performance outcome for individuals. But I would not use them as a strategy for competition. If there is an obvious target where someone could excel over and above another, then let the leaderboard display be the social reinforcement of the behaviors.

      3. No two people are alike so you should acknowledge the effort being made and encourage people to exceed their own expectations. Help each individual set their own progress goals and record the progress they are making. Provide coaching on skills they may need to accomplish the task.

      4. I agree with you. Never compare one person’s performance with another employee. I lived through that in elementary school from my parents 🙂 They are separate individuals even if they have the same job duties. Focus on the person, not the job.

      Don’t hesitate to narrow down on your question if I have not understood it well.

      Best to you in recognition,