Is it Possible to Give Too Much Recognition?

As we were developing an employee engagement survey with one of our clients, the CEO commented that he didn’t like the survey item: My supervisor regularly recognizes me for doing a good job. He felt that managers shouldn’t praise employees for doing something that is expected. Every employee is already being paid to do a good job, otherwise they wouldn’t have a job. He believed that recognition should only be given if an employee does something exceptional, not just good.

In response to his opinion, we discussed the importance of regular recognition as one of the key drivers of motivation and employee engagement. Even though employees are expected to do a good job, regular recognition for this expected work leads to improved performance. Reluctantly, the CEO agreed to include the question on the survey.

Is it Possible to Give Too Much Recognition?

Research shows that recognition impacts employee performance more than pay or bonuses. But can too much recognition and positive reinforcement backfire?

Results from our employee engagement surveys show that most managers are very poor at providing regular recognition and positive feedback. They often give redirecting feedback to correct problems but are reluctant to give praise. Some feel recognition is only warranted for great work, others just don’t feel comfortable giving compliments. These poor recognition practices are drivers of employee disengagement and weakened performance.
Ideally,to optimize engagement and motivation, managers should provide five compliments for every criticism. Consequently, it’s almost impossible to give too much recognition.

Recognition fails if it is not sincere or relevant. Forcing a compliment for the sake of recognition is transparent and will cause more harm than good. On the other hand, by focusing on seeing the good people do and by providing sincere compliments (even for expected work), you will brighten days and reinforce positive behavior.
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