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Becky Robinson

I find it disheartening that your friend "Luke" knows a best practice for encouraging his employees but doesn't want to do it. Did you make any progress with him on it?

My husband Eric has worked for a government agency for 7 years. During that time, he has told me about some recognition programs that seem to be highly motivational for him and his co-workers: day off rewards, cash awards, and personal letters of commendation/medals. What has seemed more significant to him, though, is verbal recognition of a job well done.

Mary Jo Asmus

Hi Steve,

Employees are aching for recognition. In these tough times, this is more important than ever.

And many employees prefer recognition that is "customized" to them. Every person is different, and if managers would ask how they would like to be thanked (within boundaries, of course; a manager might want to take any form of compensation off the table), they might find that some (the extraverts) love public recognition and others (introverts) prefer that it be provided in private conversation or in writing (in fact, introverts might indicate that public recognition is embarassing for them).

However, recognition, "thank you", and especially heartfelt gratitude (largely for the reason you cite) is so absent from our workplaces that most employees would appreciate it any way they can get it!

Steve Roesler


No, I made no progress. The reason was quite simple: Luke was seen by his boss as a terrific technical "manager" (true) who "couldn't be replaced" (false). So, Luke never had to really worry about the consequences of his lack of recognizing people: he got the message that "This is something you should do but we won't zap you if you don't".

Steve Roesler

Mary Jo,

After so many years of involvement with this, you'd think we'd just give up at some point, eh?

But the fact is, "thank you" costs nothing but a moment in time and the benefits can last for days or even months. It still baffles me how a common social courtesy somehow manages to disappear inside the Cavern of Corporate Cubicles.

peter vajda

Hi Steve,

In my experience many of the Lukes and Lucies of the work world never experienced a deep degree of acknowledgement and recognition when they were growing up. So, they never learned how to "return the favor" and this imprint on their brain and in their psyche plays out in their adult life. Yes, they read all the management stuff, but it doesn't compute – it's just words. No different than reading all the nice stuff about self-help but really "do-ing" nothing about it.

In another vein, those who are competitive and live from a "zero-sum" game actually believe, albeit unconsciously, that "if you get yours, then I won't get mine." It's actually "hard" for these folks to give a compliment because they don't feel they "get theirs" often enough.

His reply, "I'm not going to spend time rewarding or telling someone how good they are if the company is already paying them a salary. They are supposed to do good work," for me is a red herring. That's his "public voice." His "private voice" actually reflects what I mentioned above.

In the context of his home life, he may be more emotionally mature, more adult, thus his response to his children. On another note, how is he in this regard with his spouse in the giving (and wanting) compliments and recognition?

In the workplace, he may still largely be the emotionally immature child. Many leaders and managers are.

Steve Roesler


Your final question gave me pause. As I thought about what I have observed, he is much more engaged with the (now adult) children when it comes to compliments and recognition that with his wife.

Something to ponder. . .

Mile High Pixie

Isn't it amazing that people refuse to consider such a thing, presuming that a paycheck is enough "thanks" for a job well done? Para-paycheck recognition is the difference for many folks between doing their job and doing it well. After a graphic designer in our marketing dept kicked butt on short deadlines for my team twice in a row, I gave her a $50 Ticketmaster gift card out of my own pocket because I wanted her to know how much I appreciated her work. I think the rest of the higher-ups at my office have forgotten that nine- and ten-hour days, six days a week, for months on end aren't actually normal, nor are they healthy for people. A simple gesture of thanks can boost someone's spirits and keep them performing well...and keep them at your firm doing good work. By the way, when I ask for help with something or have edits on a presentation with that graphic designer, she's very helpful and goes above and beyond to help me.

Chris Young

Nice post Steve! I don't think most managers realize how far simple acknowledgement and recognition can really go with engaging and retaining employees. Thanks for sharing this!

I've featured you post in my weekly Rainmaker 'Fab Five' blog picks of the week (found here: http://www.maximizepossibility.com/employee_retention/2009/06/the-rainmaker-fab-five-blog-picks-of-the-week-4.html) to share your message with my readers.

Have a great week Steve!

- Chris

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