Employee recognition - it's a Golden Rule we all need to follow

by Melany Gallant | Posted | Engagement

Employee recognition - it\'s a Golden Rule we all need to follow

A friend of mine has this really neat poster in his office that shows the “Golden Rule” as expressed by various cultures and philosophies around the world.

It reminded me of all the times my mother used to tell us: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” whenever my siblings and I squabbled, or complained about some ill treatment or unfairness we all were guilty of.

In case you’re not familiar with the Golden Rule, Wikipedia says:

The Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity is a maxim, ethical code or morality that essentially states either of the following:

  • (Positive form of Golden Rule): One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.
  • (Negative form of Golden Rule): One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated (also known as the Silver Rule).

This concept describes a “reciprocal”, or “two-way”, relationship between one’s self and others that involves both sides equally, and in a mutual fashion. This concept can be explained from the perspective of psychology, philosophy, sociology and religion.

It’s a fairly universal maxim.So what does this have to do with employee recognition you ask?

I can’t get no… recognition

One of the common complaints most employees have is not getting enough recognition for their work and contributions. They don’t feel like their manager or the organization recognize, appreciate or value what they do every day.

And they need that recognition to help keep them satisfied, motivated and engaged. They need to know that someone cares about them and their work and “sees” all that they do.

So we put all kinds of employee recognition and award programs in place to try to remedy the situation – with varying degrees of success.

While these structured programs certainly have an important role to play, often what’s really needed is a cultural change. And that’s where the Golden Rule comes in.

Increase employee to employee recognition

If, as an employee, you want to get more recognition from your manager, your peers, your customers (internal and external), try to start by giving it to them.

It’s amazing how, if you thank someone, compliment them, or praise something they’ve done (in a meaningful way), they’ll often return the gesture and/or do the same for someone else.

And when this happens, we slowly but surely start to build a culture of recognition.

Now I’m not talking about being false or manipulative here. And I’m not really advocating for the “law of attraction” though it might seem that way.

I’m saying that when we treat others the way we’d like to be treated, they tend, of their own free will, to reciprocate, because we’ve created a culture or climate where that behavior is “normal”.

We’ve set an example if you will.

Creating a culture of recognition

Performance feedback and employee recognition are key to driving employee engagement and decreasing turnover. So ask yourself:

  • When was the last time you praised your manager or a co-worker for their work?
  • When did you last give someone positive feedback on his or her performance?
  • Do you remember to thank people who co-operate or collaborate with you, teach you something, or contribute to your success in some way?
  • Do you help celebrate the accomplishments of others at work?

I used to have a Post-it(R) note on my wall that asked: “Have you thanked someone today?” I think I’ll put one up again to remind me.

Think of these things as random acts of kindness or recognition. Practice them every day.

Then stop and assess whether or not you’re getting more recognition and praise yourself now that you’re proactively giving it to others.

Little by little, you’ll help build a culture of recognition in your team, department or organization. And you’ll help ensure you get the recognition you need to stay motivated and engaged.

Your turn: What tips would you add to the above with regards to creating a culture of recognition?

To learn more about employee recognition as a way to increase motivation and engagement, read our Employee engagement center of excellence.

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