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Employee Recognition vs Appreciation

According to Paul White co-author of 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace and researcher, the current employee recognition programs that many organizations use aren’t working. They are not having a positive impact on employees or workplace morale. In many cases, the ways that most employee recognition programs are implemented actually create negative reactions from employees.

Why is this? Because, as generally implemented, recognition is very different from authentic appreciation. Here is how Paul White describes the difference between recognition and authentic appreciation:

  • Recognition is largely about behavior. 

  • The primary emphasis of recognition is improving performance. 

  • The relational direction of recognition is top down. 

  • Recognition is really an organizational function. 

What Employees Really Want: Authentic Appreciation

  • Appreciation focuses on performance plus the character qualities of the individual and the person’s intrinsic value. 

  • Appreciation has dual objectives: to improve performance, but also to support and encourage the person.

  • The goal of appreciation is what is good for the company, and what is good for the person. 

  • Appreciation requires more than behavior; it requires “heart attitude.” 

  • Appreciation can be communicated in any direction. 

  • Appreciation is based in a person-to-person relationship. 

Employee recognition programs work well when they are used for the purpose for which they were originally designed—to recognize and reward achieving performance goals. Recognition, however, does not work well when organizations try to use large organizational programs to make employees feel valued individually. In fact, this often creates negative backlash within the organization (sarcasm and resentment).

Authentic appreciation communicated personally in ways that are meaningful to the recipient is what helps employees feel truly valued. Use the correct tool for the right purpose and you will experience positive results.

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Galon JonesComment