Who Is The Hardest Person To Recognize?

Some of us have a hard time recognizing those around us and especially people we associate with at work.

Historically, people have viewed recognition as a top-down behavior where managers and leaders started recognizing employees who reported to them. This likely originated from the military where senior officers presented medals as awards for specific service or achievement in military campaigns. 

With the reduced hierarchy in organizations leading to a reduction in middle managers along with online recognition programs accessible by all employees, they have emancipated the source of who gives recognition.

Recognition is no longer constrained by a person’s position or title and should be multi-directional. 

But there can still be a bias or perception of who should give recognition. So besides considering who should give recognition, what about in the other direction? This raises the question whether some people at different levels of position are harder to recognize that others are.

Who Is the hardest person to recognize?

Informal Assessment of Recognition by Position    

I observed this again in a recent training session where attendees practiced using the Two-Part Specificity Rule®. I gave them scenarios in participant triads where they rotated roles as Givers of recognition, Receivers of recognition, and Observers of recognition.

The scenarios use real-world life experiences where individuals recognize the positive actions of a direct report employee, a fellow peer, and a general manager or senior leader who you report up to.  

I asked participants after the exercise, which was the easiest scenario to do:

  1. Supervisor/Manager to Employee.
  2. Employee to Peer.
  3. Employee to General Manager/Senior Leader.

In conducting this role-play situation, it is usually scenario number one, the supervisor/manager to employee situation, that is typically reported to be the easiest in giving recognition. These are usually manager training sessions, so the role is one they are most familiar and comfortable with.

Following this question, I ask all participants which scenario was the hardest to do.

Invariably, the most difficult scenario reported by participants is number three where they have to recognize a general manager/senior leader. 

Now remember, this is a role-playing exercise and they are not recognizing people in those positions. They imagine taking on the roles of the respective positions so they can practice giving these fictitious people more meaningful and effective recognition.

We Are All People First

In this exercise I remind participants that we are all people first and not our positions. No matter what our job titles are, we all left our homes like everyone else that day. We put on our pants or skirts on the same way as everyone else. 

We are people foremost. Our job positions, no matter what level we are at, are just the roles we play to make a difference in our organization.

So, we should be able to recognize any person at any position for the positive behaviors, personal effort, and contributions they make around us at work, the same as any other individual in the organization.

However, we look at recognizing those in more senior positions to us as:

  • Brown nosing.
  • Seeking favors or favoritism.
  • Trying to flatter for personal gain.

When any person, no matter what their position is, does something positive that makes a difference to you or others, say something! Do something. Express your appreciation to them. Let them know the impact their actions made to you, to other employees, to customers, whoever.

I remember well a vice president I reported to when I worked in a hospital as a department director. They had done something that really helped me in my position, and I wrote them a note to express my appreciation and thanks to them.

In subsequent meetings in their office, I noticed that they had placed my thank you note prominently on their desk. It stayed there for at least three months. This made me realize that this senior leader still liked to be recognized. Leadership positions can be very lonely and the least recognized because of the tough decisions they have to make all the time.

While we often perceive individuals in senior positions as the hardest to recognize, don’t let their titles impede appreciating them for who they are and recognizing them for what they do.

Recognition Reflection: Is there a senior leader you have neglected recognizing that you should make time to acknowledge?

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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