How to recognize your employees

Want to Recognize Your Employees? Avoid Michael Scott’s Epic Fails

Watching Michael Scott blunder through a completely inappropriate awards ceremony for his Dunder Mifflin employees makes for a hilarious episode of The Office, but when it comes to real life, employee recognition is no laughing matter. Recognition means a lot to employees; it not only boosts productivity and quality of work, but also helps employees handle their work frustrations better and gives them an increased sense of connection to their managers and the company itself. When they receive strong recognition, employees are more engaged; they’re 33 percent more likely to innovate, they generate twice as many ideas, and they remain at their companies for longer.

But that doesn’t mean you should just start recognizing employees for any random act or trait! As beneficial as the right recognition can be, the wrong kind of recognition can blow up in your face. So, while following in the footsteps of the Dundie Awards is not advisable in any way, shape, or form, there are plenty of lessons we can learn from The Office … about what not to do.

How to recognize your employees

Let’s start with why you’re recognizing an employee. If it’s for a professional accomplishment, like how long they’ve been there or to acknowledge the way they stepped up when the team needed them, that’s great! But if it’s recognition for something outside the professional realm, that’s probably not a great award to give. At best, it’s likely to be inappropriate; at worst, it could be humiliating or traumatizing for the employee. And, while it should go without saying, keep it positive! While you might think it’s funny to point out the way someone botched a job, they and their teammates will likely find your shaming game far less humorous, so stick to awards that recognize a job well done.

Then, remember who this is truly for: your amazing employees who have earned the right to be recognized in front of their coworkers and peers! The awards and any events you plan should center them, not managers and higher ups — even if you are pretty great. But to make it meaningful, that means you might need to do a fair bit of planning. What achievements do you want to recognize? What must an employee do to achieve that recognition? How will you award them for their achievement, and when will you do it? Taking a thoughtful approach right from the get-go will ensure the recognition you offer is accepted in the manner in which it was bestowed; otherwise, you risk the recognition coming off as an empty gesture.

When it comes time to plan an event to recognize your employees, remember that keeping it fun, social, specific, and personal is a great start, but that only works when the focus stays on celebrating positive employee achievements.

If you’re thinking about how to jazz up your company’s employee recognition program, maybe now’s a good time to sit down and watch a few episodes of The Office for inspiration — or, at the very least, you can take a look at the following graphic and learn a bit about how not to follow in Michael Scott’s footsteps.


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