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December 7, 2021

The Power of Recognition: Celebrating Self and Others – #MTtalk Roundup

Mike Barzacchini

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©©Getty Images/Lumi Nola

What does recognition at work look like to you? Is it a pay raise, more responsibilities, or simply a vote of confidence from your manager?

Celebrating achievement in the workplace can take many forms, and it can go a long way to making employees feel appreciated and motivated. But how can organizations move away from empty gestures and toward a culture of recognition?

Mike Barzacchini, Mind Tools Coach and Twitter Hour Co-Host

How to Create a Culture of Recognition

It can be easy to get caught in a cycle of tired, traditional rewards and recognition programs. Instead, here are three approaches to help you break the mold and create a lasting culture of appreciation!

1. Recognition Goes Up, Down and Sideways

Employee recognition may traditionally come from the top, but that doesn't mean it needs to remain there. In order to grow a culture of appreciation, leaders need to model and encourage positive behaviors at every level.

An "employee of the month" or "team of the year" program may have value. But what about all those other employees and teams doing outstanding work that may go unnoticed?

Instead, you could schedule time during regular meetings for employees to thank their colleagues. Or perhaps install a bulletin board - be it physical or virtual - where employees can celebrate their co-workers' successes.

By encouraging rewards and recognition throughout the organization you create and reinforce a culture of appreciation. And though the goal should be to get everyone involved, it starts with examples, expectations and resources from the organization's leaders.

2. Get Creative

The trophy. The certificate of appreciation. The gift card. While these more traditional forms of recognition still hold value, alone they can feel like hollow gestures rather than true appreciation. Organizations that make recognition an everyday practice need to find creative ways to say "thank you" and "job well done."

"A brave man acknowledges the strength of others."

Veronica Roth, American novelist

Perhaps you could bring in sweet treats on Friday afternoons to celebrate the end to a successful week, or hold regular company barbecues where the managers dish out hamburgers, potato salad, and extra portions of gratitude to employees going through the serving line.

Creative recognition programs that go beyond the expected not only recognize employees, but they also create a buzz and help tell the story that this is an organization where appreciation is a priority.

3. One Size Does Not Fit All

Every employee is different. And when it comes to recognizing workplace achievements, what suits one person may not suit another. For example, a former co-worker of mine was scheduled to be recognized for her years of service and outstanding work at a company-wide event. But on the day of the celebration, she called in sick.

Afterward, I learned that she suffered significant anxiety for days leading up to the celebration. Not everyone wants to be in the spotlight. In fact, many people who go above and beyond do so not for a pat on the back, but simply because they enjoy it.

We later celebrated in a manner she felt more comfortable with: an informal lunch with her immediate team. As I came to know this employee more closely, and many others like her, I learned that these smaller, personal recognitions made them feel more valued and comfortable.

Make Recognition a Priority

The challenge for organizations is to keep recognition approaches relevant, meaningful and valuable. By establishing recognition as a core organizational value, employees learn that they are appreciated every day, not just on occasion. Better yet, they are invited to be part of a culture of recognition.

The Power of Recognition

In our #MTtalk Twitter chat this Friday, we discussed how powerful recognition is and how we can celebrate self and others. Here are all the questions we asked, and some of the best responses:

Q1. Why do you think it is important to celebrate self and others?

@SarahH_MT It's really important to reflect and celebrate from time to time. If we don't, our focus is always on the future and what we want to do and achieve and we can be left with an empty, even dissatisfied feeling. We need to stop and notice what our efforts have achieved.

@TheTomGReid Your internal sense of pride is highly motivating and spurns you on to greater and greater accomplishments. While "work may be its own reward," the acknowledgement of the fruits of your effort from others is even more effective.

Q2. How often do you stop to recognize and celebrate your own achievements?

@Yolande_MT If I'm honest, still not often enough. However, I'm getting better at doing it as I get older.

@Dwyka_Consult Even though I recognize some of my own achievements, I don't necessarily celebrate them… interesting observation.

Q3. What do you do to acknowledge and celebrate your achievements?

@SoniaH_MT To acknowledge and celebrate my achievements, most of the time I just take a big EXHALE, then rest some, and get back to work.

@MindfulLifeWork I pause and notice how good it feels in my body to have done something worthwhile, helpful or challenging.

Q4. What achievements by others are worthy or unworthy of your recognition?

@MikeB_MT I can't judge what's worthy or not. I try to acknowledge good work, even if the outcome may fall short (I could have a discussion about the value of failure). If I'm working mindfully, I celebrate small, medium, and large ways people make a difference.

@DrKashmirM All achievements in positive direction. Even if they just try to do something good, I will recognize it with honor and respect.

Q5. How have you recognized others' achievements?

@SarahH_MT It depends. Sometimes a private thank you, other times a public thank you. I've also bought people presents when I've really appreciated what they've done. In these days of tech communications I think it is also nice to sometimes send a handwritten note.

@JKatzaman In a sense I recognize others' achievements every day with each story I write.

Q6. How important to you is being recognized by others?

@DrSupriya_MT It was a self-discovery that my need for appreciation is more than I thoughts! Maybe I look for acknowledgment. In a recent job, my manager asked me how I would like to be approached for work well done or not well done. I told them that recognition motivates me.

@MarkC_Avgi While, yes, it feels good if someone acknowledges & recognizes an accomplishment I have had, it is not near as important as feeling good about it, myself. Also, sometimes recognition by some others rings hollow.

Q7. What difference does it make if the acknowledgement comes from a boss, colleague or friend?

@HloniphileDlam7 The feeling is the same (proud and happy) but from a boss there is an extra kilogram_ confidence boost as you think about the future.

@SoniaH_MT I like when the source of acknowledgment comes from the party(-ies) who were positively impacted/ changed by my work. (Did it also make my team or community shine?)

Q8. Recognition in an organization can lose its impact – true or false? Why?

@MikeB_MT Recognition may lose impact if it's practiced or applied only one way, like through a formal program, and it does not go beyond in organic ways to really become a cultural value and natural practice.

@BRAVOMedia1 Depends on how it is being received. If praise is bountiful and is based on true achievement, successes – then keep it flowing. If they're being used to manipulate and are not authentically delivered – stop.

Q9. What makes recognition feel genuine or empty?

@MindfulLifeWork Recognition that is truly genuine, feels genuine. You can't fake it... everyone knows when you do!

@Midgie_MT Genuine acknowledgment is specific/ precise and heartfelt. Empty words are simply "thanks for a good job" with no specifics or done in a casual manner.

Q10. What can you do to find more opportunities to recognize and celebrate yourself and others?

@Yolande_MT I need to make a distinction in my head between self-celebration and self-glorification. I find the latter so repulsive that I often neglect self-celebration for fear that it might look/ sound/ feel like self-glorification.

@TheTomGReid For others, the evidence is all over the place. Pick one and offer a compliment or congratulations. For myself, I guess I'm going to have to get back into the mode of accomplishing something!

To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat over here.

Coming Up

Recognition and celebration are important when caring for yourself. Next time on #MTtalk we're going to discuss caring for yourself and others as part of your personal rescue and recovery processes. In our Twitter poll this week, we'd like to know how you spend your time when you're away from the office.


Note that you will need to be a Mind Tools Club or Corporate member to see all of the resources in full.

Using Recognition to Drive Performance

Appreciative Coaching

Rewarding Your Team

Celebrating Achievement

Achieving Quick Wins

How to Build Confidence in Others

Awards, Rewards and Recognition

Amabile and Kramer's Progress Theory

Accepting Praise - How to Own Your Achievements

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One comment on “The Power of Recognition: Celebrating Self and Others – #MTtalk Roundup”

  1. Great blog Mike. I particularly like the idea of creating a 'culture of recognition'. I've personally always tried to do that and when that culture is genuine, it can win over even the most cynical types.

    MindTools Team

Managers and leaders have been using Mind Tools for over 25 years

Now, 24 million learners globally benefit from our extensive Content Library, development tools, and custom learning experiences. See how Mind Tools for Business can help develop your managers and leaders.
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