The Power of Recognition

Joan F. Marques - MBA, Doctoral Student
Burbank, California

Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well. (Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire, 1694-1778)

It is a generally known fact, that you can achieve almost anything if you give recognition to the people you collaborate with. Recognition may be the most important string you have if you want to pull out a winner! Although this doesn't only pertain to the workplace – we all know too well how important feedback is at home – this article will be limited to the professional environment.

"Recognition in the workplace begins with an understanding of the diversity of people's gifts, talents and skills (Schermerhorn, 2002, p. 336)." Every true leader is aware of that. Leadership, in this context, is "the process of inspiring others to work hard and to accomplish important tasks (Schermerhorn, p. 336)." And "No person can be a great leader unless he takes genuine joy in the successes of those under him. (W. A. Nance)." Schermerhorn (2002) therefore rightfully states, "When we recognize the unique qualities in others we become less inclined to believe that we alone know what is best. (p. 336)" Conclusion: if you want to call yourself a leader, you better start mastering the skill of recognition.

In the April edition of New Zealand Management, great emphasis is laid on the growing search for recognition in the workplace. It seems that "more senior managers are more aggressively looking for personal recognition rather than monetary compensation." The article warns that this is a trend that transcends continents, and further asserts, "People are carefully analyzing how they feel about their work and sometimes making dramatic career decisions." So, if the job is not meaningful to them, they're out! According to this article, some of these departing "dedicated professionals have no other jobs to go to. They are just quitting, with the assumption that the right opportunity will come along." Even more interesting is the notation that the need for meaningful work is so eminent, that the state of the national economy is not even considered. "If their work is not appreciated, they will leave rather than continue in an environment that is inconsistent with what they believe in."

With this significant trend in mind, let's analyze what kind of interaction is exactly taking place when recognition is brought into play?

  • What you do:
    • You redefine "leadership." You fit Newell's (2001) description of a "Leader [who] need[s] a drive to excel and to challenge the status quo, be excited by that challenge and committed to achieving results." Newell asserts further, "To do that you have to be fairly innovative in your thinking. That means focusing on continuous improvement (p. 15)." Within this leadership style, "You have to let your people solve their problems and let them feel they matter (p. 17)." If you truly hold on to this approach, you'll find yourself agreeing with Harry S. Truman: "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit."
  • What you give:
    • Meaningful work: As a leader you will have to make sure that you provide your employees the chance to excel in areas where they can. People only excel when they enjoy doing what they’re doing. "Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work." (Aristotle)
  • What you get:
    • Encouraged by your strategy, which will surely not go by unrecognized, your subordinates, then, will not disappoint you and most likely will provide you an even better output that you initially anticipated. Besides, you will not only enjoy, but also be complimented on, the unique and rich, diverse work environment you created.
  • References:

  • Anonymous. (2002). Executives opting out. New Zealand Management, 49(3), 8.
  • Aristotle. (Unknown). Quotations about Inspiration, [On-line]. Available: Subject=S47 [2002, July 6].
  • Einstein, A. (Unknown). Albert Einstein Quotes (03/14/1879-1955), [On-Line]. Available: [2002, July 6]
  • John R. Schermerhorn, J. (2002). Management (Seventh ed.). New York: John Wiley Sons, Inc.
  • Nance, W. A. (Unknown). Famous Quotes, [On-line]. Available: [2002, July 6].
  • Newell, E. (2001). CEOs talk. Canadian HR Reporter, 14(17), 15-17.
  • Truman, H. (Unknown) Recognition, [On-Line]. Available: [2002, July 6]
  • Unknown (2002). "Famous Quotes" on Quotes Famous Quotations about Quotations Famous Sayings on Quotations, [On-line]. Available: [2002, July 6].
  • Voltaire, Francois, Marie, Arouet. (1694-1778) Recognition, [On-Line]. Available: [2002, July 6]