Recognition Pitfalls and TrapsA friend with a past drinking problem has been a devoted member of Alcoholics Anonymous and not touched a drop of alcohol for many years. Recently he gave up most of his weekend to deal with a Client emergency. The next week his manager “thanked him” with an expensive bottle of wine.

This breaks one of the most basic rules of giving recognition: tailor it to the individual. For example, some people love public recognition. Others consider being centered out and put on stage a form of punishment.

Here are other common recognition pitfalls and traps:

Random Recognition
To keep others from thinking that those who get recognition or special honors are management’s favorites (“How did you suck up for that award?”), use peer review, customer feedback, and solid key performance measures.

Phony Flattery
Employees quickly catch on to “I’m doing my recognition thing now.” Managers who won’t practice and develop their thanks or catching em doing things right skills often have less engagement and inspired teams. Recognition is at the core of effective coaching.

Jelly Bean Motivation
This phrase was coined by motivational expert M. Scott Myers to describe that empty praise that congratulates and thanks people for something that hasn’t been done. It’s “keep up the good work” from a manager who has no idea what work was really done.

Tinsel and Trinkets
Recognition can’t make up for paying people peanuts (which, as the wag said, only attracts monkeys). Formalized recognition programs can also reveal those managers who see employees not as partners to be listened to and involved in running the organization but as chattels to be exploited and manipulated.

Front Line Fixation
Don’t focus just on front line servers who have the heaviest customer contact. Employees who “serve the servers” are also vital links in the service/quality chain, and they too need to be energized by recognition and rewards.

Big Bangs
A few mega rewards to your superstars will have far less pay off than a large number of smaller rewards distributed broadly. Top performing organizations set up personalized and relevant recognition and reward programs that create many winners and recharge as large a number of individuals and team members as possible.

Clumsy Coaches
Make sure your managers’ coaching skills are strong so they are confident and competent enough to give plenty of recognition and build a “thank you culture”.

Some managers give recognition as if they expect a receipt. Others operate on the principle that “your recognition is you get to keep your job.” Sincere and honest recognition is one of the lowest cost and highly effective ways a leader can inspire and energize people.