Let’s set the scenario that you haven’t really been very good at giving recognition. It hasn’t been natural for you since you’ve only been a supervisor for less than a year. The leader you report to has set a performance management expectation for you to give more frequent recognition. They based all this on a recent employee engagement survey and the division you’re in didn’t do so well.
Now, HR has recently conducted training to show all supervisors and managers how to use the new online recognition program they launched at the beginning of the year.
But you have a problem. You’ve been hearing from workers that they don’t know how authentic and meaningful your recognition really is.
Here are some potential reasons this might be something you might need to work on.
You never or rarely gave recognition to people before using your programs. It’s true. You were once a frontline employee, just like those you are now responsible for. Management promoted you to a supervisor position because of being a hard worker who took initiative. But they never trained you to lead or manage. You had to do that by the seat of your pants.
You don’t exactly have the most positive relationship with your staff yet. Work has been demanding, and you have been mostly managing tasks and assigning who does what. Some employees are working remotely. Building positive relationships with people takes time. Start one-on-one interactions with employees. Get to know each one personally. Find out what makes them tick. What needs and wants do they have? Respond to them as best as you can.
Your employees don’t like or trust you yet as their manager. We base trust on consistency and respectful actions. Listen carefully. Give them your full attention. Tell them what you know you can do and what you will find out to make other matters happen. Trust will take time, but respect should happen every minute of the day. Respect, plus consistency of actions, will lead to the trust employees need.
You’re not the best at recognizing people in person, either. Use of your recognition programs will solely depend on how well you practice recognizing people one-on-one. Mind your please and thank you’s. Acknowledge the little things staff do every day. Highlight the accomplishments of team members and the team in daily huddles and in your staff meetings. Express gratitude in your emails when requesting help from workers. Take one recognition behavior or action and work on it for an entire week or month.
You’ve given staff additional work tasks right after you recognize them. It can be a human tendency to give assignments to good, hard-working staff. Just don’t do it right after you praise or recognize them for a previously well-done task. Remain focused on acknowledging staff in the moment. If you must assign a work task, try to keep some distance between the recognition event and giving a new project.
Watch how often you give negative or critical feedback to employees. Depending on how you were brought up at home, treated at school, and how you’ve been managed, you may have experienced more criticism than praise. High performance teams have leaders who use greater positive expressions than negative. They use more questions than statements and focus more on the employee than on themselves. So, watch the ratio of positive to negative feedback.
You learned to use the sandwich feedback method. With good intentions, you’ve used the feedback sandwich technique of giving a negative feedback comment squeezed in between two positive statements. Unfortunately, this confuses employees and is not an excellent method for giving meaningful recognition. They should ban the sandwich technique for giving praise and feedback. Don’t use it!
You’re not known for being cordial to everyone as they would like. Not all of us are the warm and cuddly type. Some professions, even stereotypically, hire a certain personality type. What I can tell you is that staff will expect you to greet and acknowledge them when you see them in the hallway or even outside of work. Give them a smile and a nod. Refer to them by their preferred name. Make time to sit down with them or stop by their workstations and find out about them personally and their life after work. It takes some time, but it is worth it.
You might take the credit for work that your staff does. Be careful in your management meetings when giving reports not to assume responsibility for excellent results. When your team produces the great work your leaders acknowledge you for, sing your staff’s praises instead in your management meetings. Tell other managers the great things that your workers are doing.
You have publicly belittled staff in meetings a few times. Never make light of things that people cannot easily change about themselves. If an employee has a work issue, deal with all performance matters in person, one-on-one, never in front of others. Resolve never to make fun or light of people in public. In contrast, once you know each employee’s recognition preferences, if they like public recognition, then praise staff publicly for their amazing work.
The above list won’t be the only things that might stop staff from believing the genuineness of your recognition. But look at this list and be more mindful of the things you do or don’t do that might impede authentic recognition giving.
Recognition Reflection: What leadership development training do you provide your managers to ensure the recognition they give is meaningful and genuine?
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.