Why Time Is An Excuse For Not Giving Recognition

I promise this will not surprise you.

From my learning sessions and surveys, the number one reason people give me for not giving recognition to peers, employees and managers is “time”.

I’ve confirmed this explanation from managers across North America, Europe, Middle East and India. Managers in thirteen countries in total all claim they don’t have time to recognize one another.

But is that the real reason? What’s stopping those you work with, and maybe even yourself, from recognizing the people where you work?

I don’t think time is the reason.

Let’s Take a Closer Look at Time

So I’ve been conducting research and delivering training on the why and how of giving meaningful recognition for over 20 years now. I have been fascinated by this universal response of a lack of time for not giving recognition.

I typically ask workshop participants to hold up their smartphones with their stopwatch feature on or to use their watch, if they still wear one, and time themselves saying the words, “Thank you.”

Well, that takes between 1 and 2 seconds tops. Time is not a good reason there.

Now, I want to make sure you know, I am not saying recognition should be reduced to saying those two words “Thank you” all the time.

Real recognition, that is truly meaningful, memorable and motivational, requires more than a couple of words.

Effective praise and feedback needs much more specificity in identifying the Action being acknowledged. You must also highlight the Impact that action made as far as driving business results or affecting the lives of specific people – peers, customers, etc.

If you were working in healthcare with seniors you might acknowledge a nurse for working on a quality improvement project in this manner.

“I really appreciate all of your dedicated work on the antipsychotic meds reduction project (Action). Family members of these seniors are already reporting improved communication and participation in activities (Impact). Thank you.”

I timed that out to be about 13 to 14 seconds long.

Or if you worked in a retail bank as a manager and you saw a great customer service representative interaction with a client you might identify the following Action and Impact.

“Chris, I just want to personally thank you for the positive way you interacted with Mrs. Jones at the counter this morning (Action). The way you communicated with her respected her needs and set a real positive example for your peers to follow. (Impact)”

Again, this was in the 14-second range.

With just these two examples I have shown you that expressing recognition to these two employees has taken less than 30 seconds total.

It becomes pretty evident that not having time is an excuse versus a valid reason for not giving recognition.

One Probable Reason For Not Recognizing

A majority of people are comfortably hiding behind the excuse they don’t have time for giving recognition.

What are the real reasons?

One reason could be a lack of respect for others. Respect must always be present in order to truly value and recognize another person.

We know respect is treating others as we would like to be treated. It’s being polite, like holding the door open for someone behind us or greeting someone in the hallway with using their name.

Where we fall down is realizing that respect also means to hold someone or something in esteem or high regard, and to actually honor a person for who they are and what they do. Do we respect people enough to demonstrate that we value them and their contributions?

This is where I’m concerned we slip up and neglect to praise, recognize and compliment people on a consistent basis. Why? Because we don’t fully appreciate the complexity behind what respect really means.

If I regard someone highly enough to honor them, then I will almost reverently set aside the time to orchestrate the right way to recognize them. Time no longer becomes an excuse but rather a currency to be worthily spent.

By respecting someone enough, I will be thinking more about how they would like to be recognized versus how I like to be appreciated. And, if I don’t know, will I have the courtesy to discretely or even directly find out?

Respect can be so much fun!

Am I sensitive and observant enough to see and hear things about a person that could add a powerful – “how did you know” effect – to a special recognition moment? Valuing people can be a lifelong skillset that builds awareness of the little things around us.

I love finding out the meaning and origin of words. The root origin of the word “respect” comes from the Latin “respectus” which means, “looking back”.

Perhaps we need to look back more often.

Reflect on occasions you have overlooked recognizing someone or carried out poorly given recognition. In looking back with a reframed focus, maybe you’ll see if you fully respected a colleague, a friend or even family member the right way.

With respect as a core part of our lives, recognition giving becomes an automatic behavior, and time becomes an opportunity and never an excuse.

With better respect in mind, then recognition will more naturally flow from us.

Recognition does not need a lot of time. However, real recognition does require us to have far more respect for those we work with.

Use your time wisely and recognize someone now.

Question: What do you think stops most people from recognizing others?

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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One thought on “Why Time Is An Excuse For Not Giving Recognition

  1. This article is very timely, Roy. I was just discussing the importance of employee recognition with my colleagues today. Years ago I coined the phrase, “A pay check reaches my wallet, while praise reaches my heart.”