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Why is Employee Recognition so Difficult?

Updated: Mar 30, 2022

36% of employees say lack of recognition is the top reason to leave their job.”

Employee recognition really shouldn’t be that difficult, and yet it is.

I scratch my head over what should be a relatively simple business concept to embrace. What is it that managers are so worried about? Are they afraid we will ask for a raise every time they pat us on the back?

Some would quickly defend managers’ reluctance to hand out compliments. “Ah, that’s just Jim. He’s like that with everybody. You know he appreciates you.”

Really? Having run into a lack of recognition myself in the workplace, I would beg to differ. Weeks would go by. Then months… Still more time would go by. Nothing about the good work I was doing. I knew I was doing good work, often above and beyond my job description, and knowing that IS gratifying to some degree. But still, most of us starve for someone to notice from time to time.

Finally, I “had to know” what my boss thought about the work I was doing, and so I mentioned my concern to a co-worker we'll call Bob.

“Well, you know ‘Jim’ (not real names) appreciates you. He’s told me himself a number of times,” Bob replied, obviously defending my boss.

??? So, “Jim” told “Bob” I was doing a great job, but he couldn’t tell me himself? What’s up with that?

You may have heard the saying that when communication is poor in the workplace, people will expect the worse. Yep. Clam up. Never say anything, and people will wonder what’s up. Like it or not, gossip will take over when facts are absent. Employees might even bolt for greener pastures if they’re kept in the dark long enough.

“Bosses are busy,” some will say. True. “You should know you’re doing a good job,” others might add. Maybe. “You know times are tough, and they can’t afford a raise right now,” is another comment you might hear.

That could be also. But in a day and age in which far too many staffs are too stretched for time, is it really THAT MUCH to hear it from the head honcho from time to time? Even better yet is when the boss SHOWS his/her appreciation with a signed, thank-you card, an individualized gift certificate to a favorite store or restaurant, etc., etc.

Excuses for a lack of recognition are usually just that. EXCUSES. “Busy”? Horse hockey! “YOU know you're doing a good job!” Another cop-out.

A simple, basic thank you is free, isn’t it? Communicated sincerely, it just might spur the motivation the employee needs to hear that will prod him to doing still more good work.

C’mon managers, wake up. Or – don’t surprised when more than one-third (36%) of YOUR employees leave.

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