Recognition: A Quick, Low-cost Way to Motivate Employees

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Recognizing good performance through praise or other positive action is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to motivate people. It provides three major benefits:

  • It lets people know that their performance was valued, and increases the likelihood that they will continue to perform well.
  • It builds confidence so that people are willing to try new things, and develop further in their jobs.
  • It leads to greater job satisfaction which in turn builds commitment to the manager and the employer.
  • Don't underestimate the need people have for recognition. Any occasion when recognition could have been given but wasn't, for whatever reason, is a missed opportunity. Here are four ways to encourage good performance:

    Direct Praise. Give a subordinate a direct compliment for good performance.
    Example: "John, you did a great job of dealing with that travel agent this morning. She was being difficult, but you stayed very calm."

    Earshot. Tell someone else about a subordinate's performance so that he or she overhears you.
    Example: (Near Peter's office, so he overhears) "Dennis, why not ask Peter about budget revisions. He handles that kind of problem really well."

    Third-Party Recognition. Encourage someone else to offer recognition for good performance.
    Example: "Sheila, it was Tony who made sure we completed our agenda yesterday. Why don't you tell him how well he did?"

    Formal Recognition. Respond to good performance by doing something official.
    Examples: Memos to other (colleagues, your manager, upper management, personnel file or mention at a staff meeting or management meeting;

    Giving positive feedback through direct praise is probably the most commonly used form of recognition in management situations. However, earshot, third-party, and formal recognition are equally effective at publicizing the success of an individual to others whom he or she respects. Remember, most people feel they get too little recognition for what they do; very few feel over-recognized.

    Marcia Zidle, the 'people smarts' coach, works with business leaders to quickly solve their people management headaches so they can concentrate on their #1 job ? to grow and increase profits. She offers free help through Leadership Briefing, a weekly e-newsletter with practical tips on leadership style, employee motivation, recruitment and retention and relationship management. Subscribe by going to and get the bonus report "61 Leadership Time Savers and Life Savers". Marcia is the author of the What Really Works Handbooks ? resources for managers on the front line and the Power-by-the-Hour programs ? fast, convenient, real life, affordable courses for leadership and staff development. She is available for media interviews, conference presentations and panel discussions on the hottest issues affecting the workplace today. Contact Marcia at 800-971-7619.

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