Genuine Employee Recognition: What’s Not to Like?

January 7, 2010

So, I received this text the other day from my friend in Baltimore. He wrote: “have a great day selling undeserved praise!” 

After I picked myself off the floor, I replied: “What?!” 

Surprising Text Message 

Let me backtrack. He was in town last fall to take part in ArtPrize, a pretty cool artist’s contest that took place in our fair city, Grand Rapids, Michigan. I got the chance to catch up with him one night while he was here, and our conversation naturally led to our jobs. 

When I first told him what I do, he said with contempt, “Oh, you people. You’re part of the problem!” He is my age, and members of our generation (Gen X) fall on the cusp of those who believe in recognition and those who don’t. Clearly, we know where he stands! 

But I know that part of that is not just his age, but also because he works with troubled kids. And those kids are members of the Millennial Generation (or Gen Y), who are known to thrive on, perhaps require, regular recognition and feedback. I suspect that he thinks this tendency feeds some of their problems. This mindset represents a pretty typical rift between older and younger generations. Cori addresses this subject very well in a White Paper she wrote on generational differences and how we can navigate them in our lives and in the workplace. You can read it here: Talkin 'Bout My Generation

As far as being “part of the problem”, or “selling undeserved praise”, here is where I stand: 

Recognition done correctly can be a way to appreciate and motivate people in our lives. Done without meaning, sincerity, or merit, it is just a hollow ploy. 

We make a mistake if we think that giving praise should be done just because a person needs it. And most people are perceptive enough to recognize a disingenuous comment when they hear one, anyway. Undeserved recognition has no value, no life span, and no strategic outcome.    

However, if we give it when it is earned it can be very powerful. Think about the last genuine compliment or pat on the back you received. It felt pretty good, right? And it probably naturally made you stand a little taller or want to work a little harder to prove this wasn’t just an isolated incident. Maybe it made you feel more valued and even improved your attitude about your work or your situation. These are all results that benefit both the giver and receiver of recognition. 

At Baudville, we always recommend that recognition be given promptly after the behavior or performance, that it be sincere (and, if possible, include a handwritten note), and specifically mention what is being recognized. 

Follow these guidelines and no one will accuse you of being part of the problem! 



Allison is Baudville’s one (and only) Copywriter. She’s been writing for a variety of media for more than eight years, so if she tells you she has been there and done that, she probably has. Before embarking on a career in writing, Allison worked as a department manager where she used Baudville products to motivate her team. She’s what we call a true believer!  

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