March 26


…the act of recognizing; state of being recognized; acknowledgment; acknowledgment of status; a sign, token or indication of recognizing. Chambers 9th Dictionary

Have you ever experienced that warm glow of satisfaction as someone thanks you for a job well done? Or that fizzing irritation as something you said or contributed is ignored, or worse attributed to someone else? I recently spoke to someone who had won that month’s ‘Shining Light’ award given by her team for something she had achieved. From her smile and enthusiasm to tell me I could see it meant something to be recognised in this way.

Psychologically recognition is a powerful force rooted in the importance of our social relationships as part of our individual identity development. Donald Winnicott regarded recognition as the emotional response that makes our feelings, intentions and actions meaningful. Such recognition can only come from others whom we in turn value that is we recognise them and what they offer.

Charles Taylor seemed to sum up the importance of recognition when he said:

Recognition is not just a courtesy we owe people. It is a vital human need.

I see in my own coaching and development work the impact that a lack of recognition can have on people and the emotional turmoil this creates. It seems that out workplaces are not especially good at understanding the importance of recognition, despite the fact there is a wealth of research that demonstrates how valuable it is.

Research from human resources firm Bersin & Associates suggests that companies that excel at recognising their people are on average 12 times more likely than their peers to generate strong business results, including higher profitability and better market leadership positions. In addition, in organizations where recognition occurs, employee engagement, productivity and customer service are about 14 percent better than in companies that do not reward and recognize employees well. They also found that for ’employees, the most important elements of a recognition program are the ability to receive specific feedback and give recognition easily. This finding is underscored by the fact that the top reason employees do not recognize each other is because there is no established way to provide recognition.’

Research by Office Team suggests there are a number of things you need to get right to acknowledge the achievements of others:

  • Get your facts straight – nothing is more embarrassing than incorrectly acknowledging a person’s name or individual accomplishment.
  • Don’t offer token gestures – The form of recognition should fit the degree of achievement.
  • Be specific – tie your acknowledgements back to specific actions so people know exactly what they did well.
  • Don’t go overboard — recognition doesn’t need to be extravagant to be effective. Small, everyday things, such as saying “thank you” or giving credit for good ideas, can be powerful.
  • Make sure you acknowledge everyone who was involved — although some people more naturally gravitate toward the limelight, don’t forget to celebrate unsung heroes who help behind the scenes.

Remember, whoever you are talking to also needs to value your recognition for it to make a difference!

The next time you do something that is acknowledged by someone else think about what it means to you.


Charles Taylor, (1992) ‘The Politics of Recognition’, in Amy Gutmann (ed.) Multiculturalism and ‘The Politics of Recognition’ Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 25-73;

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Posted March 26, 2013 by Dawn Langley in category "Blog