How Do You Know When to Recognize or Reward Someone?
Posted by Roy Saunderson on Thu, May 07, 2020 @ 01:00 PM

It's not always easy to determine what action deserves recognition or rewarding. Both need to be authentic and expressed in the correct manner. Roy Saunderson, Chief Learning Officer at our sister company, Rideau, shares his advice on how managers can know when it's appropriate to be effective and meaningful. Here, we share the blog he posted in March of this year.

The question of when to recognize a person or whether what they have done merits a reward, is a common issue, especially for managers.

I believe you must start by defining what you mean by recognition and what rewards are first. Once there is agreement throughout the organization on these two definitions, you will be in much better shape to guide and prescribe when to use each of them appropriately.

Starting with Definitions

As a working definition, I define recognition as mostly an intangible expression of acknowledgment and valuing of an individual or team, for their positive behaviors, their effort or contributions they have made.

For rewards, I define them as tangible or experiential items given to a person or team, in return for reaching pre-set goals, reaching a significant achievement or exceptional service performed.

Now let’s get into when you should use recognition versus when you reward someone.

When to Use Recognition

Like the Transportation Security Authority says in their airport public service announcements, when you “see something, say something.”

You give recognition whenever someone’s actions, effort and positive behavior triggers a positive emotion or feeling in you, causing you to want to express your feelings to the other person.

Your expression of acknowledgment will probably be a surprise for the recipient of your recognition. Make sure your recognition actions are a pleasant surprise for them and respects their wishes.

What is key for helping to correct the perception that recognition equals rewards is always to remember that when you give recognition, you do not have to give a reward. But whenever you reward a person, you must always accompany it with recognition.

When to Use Rewards

Be thinking above and beyond performance or significant results, and these factors most likely merit a reward. You must have clear criteria and substantial reasons for rewarding someone.

Rewards are something tangible, like a lifestyle or a preferred merchandise item. Rewards can be a gift card. And rewards can also be something experiential like a certificate to a golf course or a team-building activity event off-site.

Create a level-base of rewards where each level has different values (cash value or point values) based on achieving different criteria variables.

For example, you give a level one reward to someone who demonstrates a positive action or behavior that has low impacting results, and a singular (non-recurring) action to you or the team (one versus many people may change the level) and shows exemplary performance supporting our values.

Compare this with say, a level nine reward, where the person’s actions or behaviors are high impacting results and consistent and ongoing with direct impact on your department (impacting many) and achieved a strategic goal while supporting our values.

Carefully determine the specific reward values your budget allows and create an ascending monetary/points value to each level with their respective criteria variables.

Recognition is foremost a relational experience, while rewards are transactional. Recognition happens when you are emotionally affected by another person’s positive behavior enough to say something or do something to acknowledge them.

Rewards have the construct that if you do X behavior or achieve X results, then you will receive Y reward. Rewards are rule-bound and have measurable criteria and should never be arbitrarily given on personal whims.

By starting with definitions and knowing that rewards require measurable criteria, you should be able to create some guidelines that help everyone to do the right thing for the right reason.


Topics: Recognition

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