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Too Much Employee Recognition Leads to High Turnover

Too Much Employee Recognition Leads to High Turnover

My seven year old son recently walked into my home office and said, “Dad, you’re pretty smart”.  The kid is obviously a genius and a great judge of character.

Turns out he was doing an assignment for school.  He was supposed to give a compliment, then draw a picture of the recipient’s face immediately afterward.  I think the idea is for him to draw a connection between how people feel when they are recognized.  (This is part of the PATHs Curriculum I have mentioned here before).

I am so glad that they are teaching emotional intelligence at school that I bought this bumpersticker for my car:


His assignment was a great idea and it really got me thinking about the scarcity of compliments and recognition at home and at work.  I also think that would be a great assignment for all of us to take on today.  Go out and compliment or recognize at least three people, then draw the faces of the recipients immediately after the compliment.

What is so relevant about this seven year-old’s assignment is that we should all be doing it all the time.  As leaders, we all need to do a great job of recognizing the strengths and contributions of others.  Recognition is one of the easiest yet most underutilized tools that project managers and leaders have.  I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating.  No one ever quit a job because of too much recognition!  Could you imagine if someone actually gave that as a reason for leaving?  It would be unheard of.

“My supervisor was always coming in and telling me what a great job I was doing. It was annoying really because I was just doing my job. Eventually I just got fed up with it and decided to go elsewhere.”
– Disgruntled Employee

In fact, Marcus Buckingham contends that regular recognition is one of the twelve measures of the strength of a workplace.  In First Break All the Rules, he uses the following question to gauge strength of the workplace:

“In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for good work?”

(Disclaimer:  I am a huge fan of Marcus Buckingham especially after hearing him speak live at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit last month.)  In any case, regular recognition is something that we can all work on.  Do you want to improve the emotional mood of your workplace?  Try the exercise.  Recognize somebody you work with and pay attention to the look on their face.  Hopefully it will be a happy face.  If you haven’t done much of it in the past, you might also get surprise or shock.

In fact, you might make this an exercise you do for a whole week.  Here is a little tally sheet of faced you can print out and use to track the results.  Just circle or put a little check mark beside the face you get when make a compliment.  I challenge you to do that for the next week and then post a comment back on your results.


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