Recognition, the word that means so many different things to people. Indeed, closes the top sixteen list of why people change careers with “Looking for more recognition.” It only takes seconds scrolling through social media posts in a business setting to see someone post quotes or comments about the importance of recognition from their supervisor or to see the various ways companies show gratitude and recognition to their team members.

The word recognition simply means special notice or attention. On-line, Google describes it as when you spot a familiar face in a crowd who is someone you met before. That’s quite a thought about spotting familiar faces as this may either bring a reaction of wanting to make sure you connect with them or prompting you to avoid contact with them. In the workplace, recognition is meant as, referring to, all the ways, an organization shows its appreciation for employee’s contributions.” The workplace challenge can be a similar reaction, connect or avoid, all dependent on the relationship and each sides feeling to and ability for public acknowledgment.

Learning how you require, and value workplace appreciation is an important part of feeling fulfilled in the workplace. Knowing how to communicate your need for recognition during an interview or throughout the duration of your employment is key to your fulfillment and yes, everyone has a need for some type of recognition, whether spoken, tangible, or some combination of both. Similar to a personal relationship where you might share things like “I like it when you acknowledge that you are proud of me, or it embarrasses me when you sing my praises in public” the ability to communicate what builds you up and what you don’t care for will help set expectations in the relationship with your supervisor and possibly the business itself.

Companies oftentimes have recognition programs in place and one size does not necessarily fit all. Yet, as an employee, the ability to understand when it might not be your preferred means of recognition, supporting what might be important to other associates could go a long way. Many companies have opt-out policies in place, yet opting out can do more damage than good to your workplace relationships if your only reason from doing so is you don’t enjoy participating.

Three main types of recognition in the workplace are:

  • Leader/Manager-to-Peer Recognition
  • Peer-to-Peer Recognition
  • Performance Management

The way workplace recognition is shown is written, verbal and monetary. This can be done formally, informally, privately or in a group setting. A need (lack of) occurs when there is a perceived gap between a current circumstance and a desired circumstance. How do you define your need and balance it with the programs a company administers for recognition?

Oftentimes in coaching sessions, I hear from an employee that their supervisor or company does not appreciate all they do, or pay them what they are worth. Further discovery will, many times, uncover that perception is not reality or their desired circumstance may not be realistic. Individually, the same thing happens in relationships when a couple wants their significant other to give them more of something but do not want what they are receiving in other areas to change. Most of the time it is a balance of time, monetary and how communication is taking place. You cannot ask your significant other to spend more time with you during the day if their current employment situation requires them to be distanced too far from you to accommodate your time, unless you consider a logistical change that works for both of you and take into consideration the overall household budget if income changes. The same is true for the workplace. You may want to personally show your supervisor the work you did daily. Your supervisor has other responsibilities which logistically and possibly relationally are not viable for them. You must decide if you can find another way to satisfy your relational need or make sure at the next company, daily one-on-one sessions are in place because your supervisor leads that way, and the role is structured that way within the organization.

Recognition, within the workplace is typically a consideration when you are:

  • at minimum doing the job you were hired to do;
  • meeting the deadlines associated with the work you do;
  • doing so with a positive attitude; and
  • meeting your supervisor’s expectations for quality, specifications, detail/creative etc.

How your supervisor gives recognition and how you receive it all correlates with your workplace recognition need(s) which are different for everyone and can be one or more of these: words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and gifts. One or some of these may or may not be important to you.

Once you identify your workplace recognition need, you can then apply the need through communication in an interview to ensure that you will be reporting to and working with people that fill your need when it comes to recognition.

Here are some needs that typically correlate to various DiSC styles include:

D– Public congratulations for initiative and leadership skills along with providing them the next challenge and recognition when that challenge is met.

i– Enthusiasm, affirmative words and time with their teammates and supervisors to innovate or celebrate fills their recognition need.

S– Personalized gifts and quality time are important to help fill their workplace recognition need.

C– Listening to the detail they are providing, financial gifts and sincere thank you’ s fill their workplace recognition needs.

Yes, you can be a combination of the above and have a blend of recognition needs.

If you are a supervisor that likes to reward with a company celebration to cover recognition and you think one size fits all – think again! This may be someone that needs something like a fun lively spot, but with a quiet corner, printed employee acknowledgment and personalized giveaway, cash bonus and one-on-one time with this direct report may be a calculated order. The saying “you can’t please everyone all of the time” is a good one for sure. But, making sure to cover the one who is vying for your attention and to “take notice” is important so you don’t have a resignation following the party.

To Recognizing the Right Recognition for You and Others,

Suzanne Breistol


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