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Peer Recognition

Co-workers: a potent source of recognition

The conversation occurred years ago, but it is still fresh in my mind. An elementary school teacher proudly recalled a compliment she had received from the teacher who taught next door.

“I really appreciate getting students in my class that you had the year before,” the colleague said, then continued, “They are so ready to learn and excited about learning.”

From what I have learned from listening to participants in my seminars and from reviewing responses to staff attitude surveys we have conducted for clients, I know how much workers from a variety of industries crave recognition. They want to know that someone notices what they do, and values and appreciates them for their efforts and accomplishments.

The usual response to low staff recognition scores is to focus on those in supervisory roles. What are managers doing to recognize staff? Why aren’t they doing more? How could they do a better job of recognizing staff?

While it is appropriate to encourage those who supervise to do more, managers should not be seen as the only source of recognition. To do so overlooks a much more potent source of meaningful recognition – co-workers.

There may be no more powerful type of recognition than peer recognition. Who knows better what an employee does than someone who does the same or a similar job? Certainly not a manager tucked away in her office or always being called away to meetings.

Co-workers know what is needed to be successful, which gives their words of praise great credibility. Unlike supervisors, co-workers are usually there to witness others doing their jobs well. They can recognize co-workers instantaneously when they see behaviour that is essential to success.

It is easy for you, as a supervisor, to facilitate peer recognition:

  • Place thank-you cards in locations accessible to all staff. Encourage them to use these to acknowledge co-workers who help.

  • Create a pass-along award that one co-worker can present to another when the latter does well. The objective is to keep the award moving, never resting on any one desk for more than a couple of days. The award itself can be anything – a recycled sports trophy, a stuffed toy, a special banner. It is the message of appreciation that accompanies the award that counts.

  • Set aside time at staff meetings to allow staff members to thank each other. To demonstrate the significance of recognition, schedule this activity for early in the meeting... which is where all important topics should be placed on an agenda.

  • Hold a “Positive Strokes Day” when everyone is encouraged to give positive strokes to co-workers.

  • Invite staff to tell you when a co-worker has been particularly helpful. Follow up with a note to the co-worker letting her know that you are aware she did well.

  • Recognition is infectious. When you take the time to praise deserving people regularly, they will learn from the behaviour you are modelling. They will begin to recognize the efforts and achievements of others more often. You can do even more to encourage peer recognition by praising staff for recognizing their colleagues.

  • To improve the relationship and communication among employees in different departments, create awards for which employees can only nominate staff from another department who have been helpful.

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