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Recognition: It's free but it pays off!! 

Think back to your early experiences, as a child, when your parents praised your efforts to draw a beautiful picture... Did their encouragement make you want to improve your drawing? The answer is likely yes, because such experiences are our first taste of recognition! 

On a professional level, when we talk about recognition, we tend to think salary increase or promotion, right? But there are other ways to achieve the desired long-term effects!

Like any good recipe, recognition has key ingredients that have no real substitutes. According to Jean-Pierre Brun,* founder of the Chair in Occupational Health and Safety Management at Laval University, quality recognition is defined by three things:

The three key ingredients for a winning recipe 

  • The first is authenticity. Impersonal recognition that is not heartfelt will miss its target. And a lack of sincerity is easy to spot.
  • The second is proximity in time. If recognition is not awarded immediately or soon after the event, it loses its meaning.
  • Finally, specificity is important. We all know what it’s like to  be thanked without being entirely sure why. It never has as much impact as when it’s clear what is being recognized. For example, when I used to wait tables, just “thank you” never had the same punch as “thank you, your cheerful service was so refreshing”. See the difference?

Monetary recognition, sure, but even then… 

I feel like drawing a parallel with my experience as a waiter to illustrate my view on monetary recognition. A few times, the customer left me a large tip without necessarily saying why. I was pleased when it happened but a couple of minutes later I’d forget about it. This type of recognition often has a short-term impact, especially when there is no feedback accompanying the gesture. There is a certain amount of satisfaction but it quickly fades. A positive comment on my good mood, my speed or my service, however – now THAT made my day, and even my week! That type of recognition has a long-term impact, particularly on self-esteem, but also on the feeling of being where you are supposed to be. I’ve always said that comments like that are what motivated me to excel at work!

I’d like to conclude by asking two questions: 

  • Where does recognition fit into your desire to excel at work – is it optional, important or essential? 
  • Who have you said “thank-you” to recently, and why?  

* BRUN, J. (2018) Le Pouvoir de la reconnaissance au travail – 30 fiches pratiques pour motiver et améliorer la performance


Marie- Christine VERRET

Change management consultant


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