5 Ways to Screw Up Employee Recognition

Employee recognition is an integral part of improving company culture and overall company bottom line. Several studies have shown that giving incentives and recognition in the workplace has many benefits including, but not limited to, reducing employee turnover, raising productivity levels, increasing customer retention, and boosting employee engagement.

With how it contributes to so many good things, how can employee recognition ever be wrong? Recognition that given incorrectly can be detrimental to company goals. Companies that do not make employee recognition a priority can damage their company culture. They can even hurt their overall bottom line by not giving effective employee recognition. What’s worse is that there is more than one way to screw up employee recognition. Here are five ways other companies have gotten recognition wrong (so you won’t do the same):


1. No Recognition is Given

The most common way to screw up employee recognition is to not give any in the first place. The goal of employee recognition is to develop and reinforce employee behaviors. With recognition, employers can influence practices and activities that yield better employee performance and a stronger bottom line for the business. By not giving credit, employers put a lot at risk. In today’s highly competitive work environment, employees are choosing to work for companies who make them feel valued for their work. They want to work for companies that motivate and appreciate them. When company leaders decide not to recognize employees or acknowledge their accomplishments, employees become disengaged and begin to seek more fulfilling employment opportunities.


2. Giving Generic Recognition that is Not Personalized

It doesn’t take much to make an employee feel like a valuable part of the workplace. Sometimes, it’s as simple as saying, “Thank you,” and giving them a friendly handshake. However, showing appreciation should be a personalized experience. Employees respond best to the recognition that makes them feel like an individual. When thanking an employee or showing appreciation through recognition, it’s essential to understand who they are and how they want to be recognized. Personalize your efforts by using their name when addressing them. Celebrate their accomplishment with a meaningful gift or by treating them to lunch. Little efforts go a long way when making employees feel valued.


3. It Doesn’t Feel Genuine

Just as personalized recognition is important, so is authentic recognition. Employees feel like an afterthought or like their accomplishments are less than relevant to company leaders when the recognition they receive seems half-hearted and undeserving. These feelings arise when the person responsible for showing recognition does so in a rushed, inauthentic way. While leaving thank you notes, or sending an email are great ways to let employees know they are not forgotten, be sure to recognize them in person whenever and as often possible. Giving recognition that doesn’t feel genuine can come across as demeaning and take away from the experience. Employees who have worked hard deserve to have their accomplishment congratulated in an authentic, purposeful way.




4. Too Competitive

A lot of companies use contests and competitions to spark engagement and motivate employees to work hard. A little healthy competition is an excellent way to boost spirits and bring some gamification to the workplace. However, if things are too competitive and only the winner of each contest receives recognition, it can be counterproductive. Over time, overly competitive recognition programs create disappointed non-winners, who, despite trying to be good sports about not winning, may begin to left out and angry. A too competitive environment can hurt employee morale and cause them to disengage from activities.


5. Not Timely or Consistent

Recognition is meant to reinforce positive behaviors. It can be used to congratulate someone for working hard to achieve a work-related goal while also motivating them to continue to keep up with their work. For recognition to be effective, it must be given soon after the desirable action has taken place. Company leaders should determine what behaviors and actions employees deserve to be recognized and rewarded for, and then follow through on giving recognition every single time those behaviors take place. Sporadic recognition can come off as showing favoritism. It can also lead to confusion and employees not understand why they didn’t receive praise if they performed the same action and received nothing. Inconsistent recognition leads to inconsistent results when it comes to boosting employee morale. Being ill-timed with recognition makes employees feel forgotten and unappreciated.


Companies who utilize recognition are on the right path to improving employee engagement, morale, and productivity. Studies prove that positive influence and recognition has the power to affect a company’s bottom line. Many organizations are still figuring out how to make recognition work for them. How recognition is delivered, when it is delivered, and who receives recognition are important factors when deciding on a recognition program. By working with a recognition solutions provider, companies can avoid common mistakes and achieve their goals for employee recognition.

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