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Employee Recognition: Five Blunders (and Fixes)

By Curt Coffman and Kathie Sorensen, Senior Partners, The Coffman Organization

As adults, we’re taught that our internal confidence and pride should be enough, but we never really outgrow that need to feel appreciated and valued for our contributions.

We’re all born with a need for recognition. Having someone else take notice of our activities and accomplishments is an instinct that cannot be turned off. Children love it when someone takes notice, and they want to keep repeating the behavior that has been positively recognized. As adults, we’re taught that our internal confidence and pride should be enough, but we never really outgrow that need to feel appreciated and valued for our contributions.

Seat Number 8

Once upon a time in a training session for a financial services company, a group of 20 salespeople were asked to look under their chairs for their seat number. The seminar leader asked the individuals with seat numbers 2, 5, and 8 to accompany him to another room, where she presented each seat-holder with a unique but contradictory point of view. Their challenge was to convince their peers of their particular viewpoint.

Meanwhile, back in the seminar room, the remaining salespeople were instructed to: a) agree with everything presented by the salesperson in seat number 2; b) disagree with everything presented by the salesperson in seat number 5; and c) completely ignore the salesperson in seat number 8.

Predictably, the salesperson in seat number 2 was elated with the audience’s approval and kept adding to his argument. In the face of audience disagreement, the salesperson in seat number 5 became more persistent, getting louder and more focused on her selling points.

What happened to the salesperson in seat number 8? No matter what he said, the audience didn’t respond. Frustrated and devastated, the young man left the room nearly in tears.

The moral: Even negative recognition is better than being overlooked or ignored!

Emotional Compensation

We want to please those around us, but when our contributions go unnoticed we begin to lose the spirit and drive to excel. By making an intentional and sincere effort to celebrate accomplishments and successes, an “emotional compensation” is built and trust is established.
Effective recognition tells us that we’re making a difference. Unfortunately, many recognition programs have fallen short of their desired outcome. Here are some examples of where they go wrong and how to fix them:

New York Times bestselling author Curt Coffman and Dr. Kathleen Sorensen currently serve as a Senior Partners of The Coffman Organization. Their latest book “Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch” is due out soon. For more information on The Coffman Organization, go to http://coffmanorganization.com

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