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Why Tracking Employee Recognition Patterns Matters

by Traci Pesch

graphic display of informationRecognize This! – We can learn much about the culture of our workplaces, departments and teams just by deliberately observing and interpreting the pattern of positivity.

We have a new joiner on our team (Welcome, Jessica!) who shared with me this terrific article on how one elementary school teacher is tackling the horror of school bullying one child at a time. As a mother, I was of course interested in this article at face value. But as I read deeper into how this teacher battles bullying, I saw so many parallels to the workplace.

Here’s the method:

“Every Friday afternoon, she [the teacher] asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student who they believe has been an 
exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.

“And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, she takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her, and studies them. 
She looks for patterns.

“Who is not getting requested by anyone else?

“Who can’t think of anyone to 

“Who never gets noticed enough 
to be nominated?

“Who had a million friends last week and none this week?

“You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed 
by their peers. And she’s pinning down—right away—who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.”

I read this and hoped for such teachers for my own children. But then, as I read the patterns the teacher is looking for, it reminded me of the similar patterns we also look for through social recognition programs. It’s the same idea, applied to the workforce. It’s the heart of what it means to “Work Human.”

Social recognition, when monitored and tracked appropriately, reveals similar patterns – both positive and potentially negative. Once those patterns are identified, then deeper investigation and possible corrective actions can be more easily taken.

Who is not getting recognized much at all?

  • Do these people work in very independent roles with little interaction with others? If so, what can I do as a manager to recognize their efforts more myself or look for projects in which they can join in with a team?
  • Is there a potential underlying performance issue resulting in little to no recognition? How can those issues be addressed with additional training or development opportunities?

Who is getting recognized but not by members of their own team?

  • Is there a personality conflict going on amongst team members that needs to be addressed?
  • Is the person getting recognized by those outside the team because he is doing a lot of work to help others on their projects? If so, is this a potential career development path as it’s clearly an area of interest?

Who is not recognizing others?

  • Does this person not have the visibility into the work and contributions of others in order to recognize them? How can we broaden their interaction, perspective or (perhaps) sense of ownership and responsibility for recognizing the valuable contributions of others?
  • Do we need to reeducate some on the importance and value of recognition, even for making progress?
  • Is there a culture of fear or an expectation that recognition is for managers only? Do we need to intervene in some departments directly?

Recognition and appreciation are very human needs. We need to know that what we do is noticed, valued and appreciated. Depriving people of the opportunity to either give or receive recognition and gratitude are features of a bully culture. Understanding and overcoming impediments to the free-flow of positivity through recognition are critical to success.

What kind of culture do you work in?

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