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This is not staff recognition

Don’t confuse compliments with staff recognition

A few years back, a salesman in a Men’s Wear store gave me advice on selecting a new tie. To know what is in style, look at what newsreaders are wearing around their necks.

This bit of wisdom came to mind recently as I read an article by Peter Mansbridge in the December 23, 2002 issue of Maclean’s magazine. In his description of the annual ritual that is the prime minister’s year-end interviews, Mansbridge recalled that former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney would remain after the interview to have his picture taken with the TV crew. A few weeks later, some would receive a signed copy of the photo.

The anchor of The National on CBC continues: “One year I got one: he wrote something on it about my tie…but had no comments about my questions.” Something similar could have been written by employees in many organizations: “My boss tells me she feels I dress well, but never says anything about how I do my job.”

This supervisor’s compliment is characteristic of what frequently passes as staff recognition. While compliments are usually welcome, they don’t fulfill an employee’s need for positive feedback on her job performance. To be most meaningful, recognition must be relevant to the employee’s role within the organization.

When employees do their jobs well or contribute to the success of the organization in some other way, they deserve to be told specifically what they have done well. Not only will these employees feel valued for what they do, they will be reminded about what is important to the organization, which increases the likelihood that they will repeat the behaviour.

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