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Effective recognition is not pi in the sky!

I recall a Gallup statistic from a few years ago that 65% of American workers claim to have received no recognition in the workplace in the previous 12 months. If that’s true—as it apparently is for those workers—then ask yourself, “How might I be contributing to this perception by employees that they are receiving no recognition?”

To illustrate, here’s an example of how my 6 yr. old son, Coleton, felt slighted—even though he had been affirmed by his first grade school teacher:

I had been preparing for a training course involving statistics and offhandedly mentioned to Cole that there was a mathematical “pi” in addition to the dessert “pie.” He seemed puzzled (as would most 6 yr. olds) so I explained to him that the “pi” used in advanced mathematics is of great importance in connection to continued fractions, logarithms of imaginary numbers, and periodic functions. After my explanation, he looked at me with wide eyes, then squinted, and said, “Can you do this (as he moved his eyebrows up and down)?”

Okay, so maybe he was a little young for an explanation of “pi.” I did soften it a bit by calling it “a secret fudge factor” and told him that, if his teacher asked, pi was equivalent to (approx.) 3.14—which he seemed to grasp. He brought it up to me a couple more times to let me know that he remembered the value of pi was 3.14 and I told him that if he shared that with his teacher, then she would probably move him up to the fifth grade!

Of course I was kidding but Cole was determined to impress his teacher. So the very next day at school, he mentioned his new found fact to her.

As he recalled the conversation, he walked up to his teacher as she was preparing for story time and said, “I know that pi is equal to 3.14.” She responded, “That’s correct” and resumed her preparations. Cole said that, as he sat down on the carpet with the other kids, he thought to himself, “I should have got more encouragement than that.”

The moral of this story is that, while you may be thinking that you recognize co-workers all the time by saying things like, “Good job!” and “Thank you,” the reality for your co-workers may be that these canned responses to their workplace performance are meaningless.

What they may be longing for (and consider to be true recognition) is something more specific such as, “Good job acknowledging Mr. Larson as a repeat guest. I bet that made him feel welcomed” or “Thank you for staying late and covering my section while I dealt with that billing issue.”

Cole’s story was a great reminder to me that in order for recognition to be effective, it has to be meaningful to the recipient. It was also yet another example of how my kids teach me things everyday.

What about you? Have you benefited from this post? Will you be a bit more specific in the recognition you share with others today?

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