Merge's Blog

When it comes to employee acknowledgement, what message are you sending?

The topic of employee acknowledgement comes up often in my leadership development practice.  Specifically, the point of view that advocates that the paycheque we give our employees is the best recognition we can give them for a job well done.  I would unequivocally submit otherwise.

Employee acknowledgement works!

employee acknowledgementI have always told leaders that employee acknowledgement – taking the time to recognize, appreciate and thank your people – generates a tremendous return on something that usually takes only a few minutes.  In fact, less than a year ago, one of my regular columns in The Globe was on the subject of how acknowledge appropriately.  In There is an art to acknowledgement. Embracing it can see tremendous returns, I outlined the four factors that you MUST take into account to create the greatest positive impact when you acknowledge others.

Employee acknowledgement is the topic, once again, of today’s blog.  Specifically, I pose the perhaps surprising question –

Isn’t soap just soap?

Think about this for a minute. If you sent a friend or client a gift box containing a dozen individually wrapped fragrant soaps from The Body Shop, she’d probably be delighted and call to thank you. But if you sent that same friend one dozen bars of Irish Spring, she’d likely think you rude and insensitive, and probably smack you the next time she saw you. Why is that? After all, isn’t soap just soap?

The difference lies in the message. With apologies to Colgate-Palmolive, the implied message in sending a dozen bars of Irish Spring is “Take a bath!” However, the implied message in sending The Body Shop’s soaps is “Pamper yourself!” Same product, but two very diametrically different reactions from the recipient!

Think about that in the context of leadership. Every employee in your organization gets weekly or bi-monthly paycheques – bars of soap, if you will. In some organizations, the implied message with the paycheque is “We’re paying you, just get the job done”. In others, it’s “Thank you for your contributions, we value you and your skills”. Same product, but not surprisingly, diametrically different reactions from the two sets of recipients.

Leaders, think about your departments and organizations. Are you giving fragrant soaps from the Body Shop or bars of Irish Spring?  I’d love to hear more about what you think about what I’ve just put forward.  Please add your perspective by commenting below.

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