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The Problem with Employee Recognition

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The Problem with Employee Recognition

​Employee recognition is a vital piece of the company culture puzzle, but it needs to be done right to have any meaningful impact. Even well-intentioned praise can come across as hollow if it’s badly timed, poorly executed, or downright bizarre (fresh meat from a hunting trip, perhaps).

There’s transformative business power in recognition, its benefits stretch way beyond the culture alone. As companies everywhere race to bolster their retention rates in the name of organisational health, it’s worth noting that 73% of employees are less likely to experience burnout when recognition is offered (CNBC), and performance, engagement, and productivity are 14% higher than in businesses without it (Deloitte).

It feels good to get acknowledged for hard work, but when it goes wrong, its negative impact reverberates throughout the wider organisation. Here’s the problem with bad recognition and how to improve it.


A one-prize-fits-all approach doesn’t scream sincerity, it grumbles hollow praise. According to a report in Business Leader, one-third of all UK employees feel undervalued at work – it’s a deep-rooted problem and praise for the sake of it likely isn’t the remedy.

What Does it Look Like?

Insincerity can look like a generic gift card, vague shoutouts, overblown (or underblown) feedback, impersonal flattery, or the failure to directly acknowledge the achievements of the employee, to name a few.

Do This Instead:

Communicate the value of your employees’ achievements. A formal announcement that references their hard work in detail makes it more personal, but it’s important to note that everyone is different. For instance, public recognition might be incredibly off-putting for some, it’s a matter of individual preference, and gifts can work when they’re unique, but offering your top performers an experience might resonate more – you can’t repeat those.

Poor Timing

You might know your people are perfect, but they need to know that you know. Timing is vital in the race for real recognition. Don’t leave it until it’s too late! You might end up with a team that feels ignored if you don’t act fast enough.

What Does it Look Like?

It looks like waiting a few weeks before commenting, during which a host of other great achievements will have come and gone. Speaking of coming and going, it’s worth displaying an ‘achievements of the month’ wall to ensure nothing gets swept under the rug.

Do This Instead:

Encourage recognition among your team – it’ll help ensure that no good deed goes unnoticed. It’s also worth showcasing your people’s achievements in the company newsletter if you have one, or you could even write a blog about it. High-quality work needs instantaneous recognition, even if it’s just a small initial interaction, you don’t want to leave employees thinking, ‘what was the point of that?’


How often should you give recognition? According to a survey from Wildgoose, Over 72% of employees feel like they deserve more than they get. There isn’t a definitive answer, as the act of recognition is highly contextual – it shouldn’t exist in a vacuum if it aims to instil a sense of fulfilment.

In theory, genuine, personalised recognition doesn’t need to have an arbitrary limit imposed on it. If a few times a month isn’t cutting it then you can always up the ante.

What Does it Look Like?

Unfulfillment can lead to feelings of inadequacy, burnout, reduced performance, a lack of engagement and general frustration. A lack of recognition may lead to a greater sense of unfulfillment, and it can’t be fixed by establishing a form of recognition allowance or praise quota.

Do This Instead:

Authenticity beats frequent inauthenticity by a country mile. Once you create a culture of sincere, well-timed, fulfilling recognition, you shouldn’t have to worry as much about how often you’re delivering it.

Credit Stealing

Are you having your workplace experience ruined by a recognition-stealing manager? Get out of there before the cringe and injustice consume you.

Alternatively, our consultancy services could help reach the root of the problem and revitalise your culture. If you need a company refresh, or you want a personalised people strategy made from scratch, reach out to me today at abi.chamberlain@trinnovo.com, we’re here to create sustainable change.