5 BAD Ways to Recognize Employees Today

Today is Staff Appreciation Day. In a recent article, Harvard behavioral scientist, Dr. Ashley Whillans, mentioned that “what really matters in the workplace is helping employees feel appreciated”. Researchers found 69% of employees would work harder if they felt their efforts were better appreciated 1.
When asked what leaders could do more of to improve employee engagement, 58% of respondents replied “give recognition” 2. When employees are valued, both fulfillment and productivity rises, and they are motivated to maintain or improve their good work. Today is a good day for good recognition.


Yes, you can do it wrong

So to ensure your recognition efforts, here are 5 BAD ways to appreciate your staff:

  1. The Unusable Gift Card – “…they gave us all Spotify gift cards none of us could use, because people all over the office share family plans, and the gift cards were only good for new, solo accounts, so everyone ended up re-gifting them to others.” 3.
  2. Creating “Ineligibility” Rewards – Like Zero Absenteeism or Zero Lateness per quarter. We now know that people who would normally show up and on time, actually perform worse after they become ineligible to win.
  3. Employee of the Month – Often derided as favoritism, and void of any cultural anchoring, time to replace it. Turn over creating the new award model to a team of staff, they will come up with something better than anything generic.
  4. Only appreciating staff ONE day per year – Seems obvious, but kind of awkward if you wait 12 months to do this again.
  5. Giving generic or superficial appreciation – Appreciation is most effective when it directly expresses how the individual’s work impacted goals, values or purpose.


There are many easy and meaningful tactics for staff appreciationFirst, avoid the 5 BAD ways above and make an impact on Staff Appreciation Day. See how your employees respond and repeat what works, drop what doesn’t. Always curate to your culture. A little investment and a few notes, can produce real results.


If you can’t think of anything, just thank 3 people today like this:

Thank you for A, when B. It showed C.


A = A specific Action someone did and didn’t have to

B = The time, date, or event when it was oBserved

C = Core value or Characteristic that mattered in the moment, that you want to reinforce


Happy thanking,





1LinkedIn, 5 Employee Feedback Stats That You
Need to See, 2016 – https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/trends-and-research/2016/5-Employee-Feedback-Stats-That-You-Need-to-See

2Psychometrics, A Study of Employee Engagement in the Canadian Workplace, 2010 – https://www.psychometrics.com/knowledge-centre/research/engagement-study/#study

3PayScale, The Worst Employee Appreciation Gifts of All Time, 2017 – https://www.payscale.com/career-news/2017/03/10-worst-employee-appreciation-gifts-time


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