I can live for 2 months on a good compliment, wrote Mark Twain, reflecting the effect appreciation has upon our lives. Recognition is, perhaps, the greatest motivator. It moves and drives individuals towards peaking their performance. A tool to be used by all and more so by supervisors to provoke effective management and development of human capital. There is no worker in an organisation who would not wish to be counted. The urge to be amongst the few than to be amongst many is a human instinct. Each individual wishes to be distinguished from the pack. They all desire to standout. Some achieve this through the sheer dint of their performance that is embedded in hard work; while some engage into diabolical corporate politics to get recognition. The former lasts and endures. The latter, like the veneer, gives away at the slightest of challenge, and certainly otherwise with time.
Recognition is such an intense need, that the lack of it causes deep anguish and scars upon personalities. “Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all – the apathy of human beings,” (Helen Keller). Recognition can only come from people who are either blessed or trained, to know, how an empathetic attitude, instils the skills to give and offer recognition to others.
A foul soul can never appreciate, anybody, except his own self. Such managers I have witnessed while spewing recognition, end mostly praising themselves, for being such a distinctive catalyst, in the performance of the colleague, who is being appreciated. A manager who fails to recognise, notice and implement a sound process of recognition, subtle as well as pronounced, is representative of a classic case of being devoid of the elements of apathy.
An infant, who takes his first baby steps, watches and waits for the parent, to give a nod, appreciation and recognition. If parents fail to recognise this need, they unknowingly either impair the toddler’s confidence or may in worst cases, delay the process of the ability of the child to walk without support. Lack of recognition at the right time is always a cause for delayed performance. It is as innate a human need as that. Recognise people at work and witness for yourself, enhanced productivity.
If you as a supervisor have recognition for some workers as they are; you can also be effective in helping them to become better than they are. I have in the management of teams always exercised appreciation over depreciation. It has not been costly. It has only brought about greater productivity and enhanced results. Recognition is the outcome of disciplined behaviour. It commands by itself, on most occasions and rarely can it be withheld.
“Applause is the spur of noble minds, the end and aim for weak ones,” (Charles Colton). For recognition, as a feature of management to pervade an institution, the requirement is to have managers, who are themselves motivated enough and possess positive streaks to offer appreciation to others. Ignoble minds cannot come to terms to shower praise upon anybody.
The obvious question is how is recognition dispensed? Is it only monetary? It may very likely be the single most important ingredient of recognition. It is an important aspect, dependent upon, if the person in question is on stage 1 or 2 of the “needs” pyramids of Maslow's! To such a mere letter of appreciation will not suffice. He needs monetary reward. Give it.
Each individual has a different standard of expectation in relation to recognition. Some colleagues are so internally charged that recognition comes to them naturally from “within". These workers are not dependent on external recognition. Many however, again depending upon where they are placed in life on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, will seek different types of recognition, which is likely to be more externally dependent if the person is caught in the mire of psychological / biological needs, safety needs and belongings needs, stages.
For the recognition mechanism to surface prominently in any corporate culture it is imperative for the workforce to know, what is recognised and rewarded for and what is appreciated and what is not acceptable. Non-Monetary recognition is usually the need and desire of senior management. (There are always exceptions!)
Should individuals be recognised or should it be teams, groups, Committees etc. While for promotion of corporate unity and camaraderie, team recognition may be the preferred route, it would be unwise to overlook the fairly well established human need, for distinctive recognition; separate from others. It is also dependent on the quality of the workforce. If they are by and large people well-initiated into present day management technique, team recognition would go down well, but if they are narrow-minded with mean streaks, only separate and individual appreciation, will be seen as recognition. Alongside, appreciation, it is important to bear in mind, never to devalue an individual or despise his/her work in the presence of co-workers. A perfect antidote to recognition. An illuminated mind will not forsake the reality of isn't everything around us created by ‘nature’ and isn't that its work.
Many colleagues, across industries and organisations agree with me that a point in time arrives when bestowing of a larger portfolio of responsibility serves as a much better trigger of recognition than mere vulgar bonuses! (Exceptions to this may be ignored!)
Financial or otherwise, recognitions in any corporate, while welcomed and needed, do not possess the quality of endurebility. A fine distinction exists between reward and recognition. Financial reward is fettered within constraints of time; even successive cash awards for goods sales performance, do not have lasting impact. On the other hand, as an example, the mere job-enrichment of an individual has long term benefits of recognition. This recognition endures.
Receiving and listening to project updates with rapt attention is a process of recognition too. Seeking input from various quarters on a particular subject, prior to formulating a decision, instils a feeling of recognition. Holding the arm of a colleague (report) while conversing and walking down the aisle of the shop floor, is considered by many as a subtle tool of recognition (if you indulge in this, make sure you are not located in Los Angeles). Such an act is watched by all colleagues on the floor. So it follows that ‘recognition’ must be seen and be visible to all. This act by a manager / supervisor must be done with grace and finesse. It shouldn't be allowed to be perceived as a sign of “closeness”, “favouritism” or even “blatant nepotism".
I have seen many seniors and juniors alike, grin so broadly as to reflect the opposite arches of rainbow, at the mere mention of their name, by the chairperson, during meetings and conferences that’s considered recognition, too. Attach a dollar value to it, and you actually steal away its purity.
Being selected to serve on Mancom's or related Committee is a straightforward act of recognition. When the judges on the benches, requisition for an Amicus Curiae – they are in fact bestowing recognition to another from their fraternity to assist them in unravelling, say a constitutional impasse. Being an Amicus Curiae is a recognition, not a reward. See the distinction?
Recognition must become part and parcel of everyday life. Just as you say “thank you”, to your spouse when served with tea, after, a long day at work; hope, you do! Repeat it with emotion to the tea boy / lady at the office, as well. This is recognition that is cherished. It is a great motivator.
The writer is a freelance columnist