5 Reasons Your Recognition is Backfiring

Someone gets recognized with the best of intentions... and the eyes start to roll.

Or, the audience begins to clap very slowly with plastered-on smiles.

Or...a quiet murmur comes over the crowd.. and the text messages start to flow.

Sometimes recognition backfires.

On the other hand, we've all witnessed the exuberant celebration when a name is called, and the whole audience seems to scream 'YES!"  People rise to their feet.... it's hand slaps the whole way back from the stage. The congratulations go on all night. When the recognition is on target, everyone feels fantastic.

As a leader, I recognize.  I've been recognized. I have also been in the constant conversations about who should be recognized.  I must admit, the higher I get in the organization, the more recognition scares me.

Recognition matters.

Recognition can backfire.

It's important to understand the impact.

5 Reasons Your Recognition is Backfiring

After participating in hundreds of recognitions over the years, I have seen patterns that cause recognition to backfire.  Avoiding these pitfalls will help to ensure your recognition is a success.

1.  Recognize numbers achieved through bad behaviors

In an effort to remain "objective," many leaders rely heavily on numbers and stack ranks as they select who to recognize. Over-reliance on the numbers can be a slippery slope.  A good way to overcome this is to identify additional behaviors or related metrics to use as gateways. I encourage you to build a deeper context to your recognition criteria.

2.  Recognize the leader without acknowledging the team.

Leaders need recognition too.  Sometimes there is huge value in recognizing a leader in front of their team. However, this is risky and must be done with care. Many times it's best to use big recognition forums to recognize team efforts, and save the individual leadership kudos for another time.

3.  Recognize a big deal as if it's a small deal

Or... a small deal as if it's a big deal.  "Thanks for saving us $5 Million dollars, here's your certificate" can backfire. Ensure you calibrate level of accomplishment with level of recognition, as well as ensure all leaders doing recognition at the same event are aligned.

4.  Mispronounce the recipient's name

This mistake seems really basic, but it's all too frequent. It doesn't help if you laugh first and apologize. Take the time to learn how to pronounce their name.

5.  Stumble on the accomplishment, or read from a script

The leaders who go to the microphone without the notes always win in my book.  They speak from the heart... so what if they can't quote every number... their eyes light up... they tell a story. They mean it.  Make sure you understand the recognition enough to mean it.

How do you ensure your recognition has the impact you desire? 

See Also:

Why Isn't This Incentive Program Working?

Recognition Power Words: The Phrases That Mean The Most

One Huge Step Every Great Boss Takes