What is the difference between appreciation and recognition?
Recognition and appreciation are not the same things. Often in the workplace, appreciation can sound like a simple, "Way to go,” or “Good job." Recognition will often sound a lot like, "Thank you so much for your X years of service." We want to go a little bit deeper today. Those are pretty shallow examples and they really do not land well with people. I do not know if you have received those before but they seem superficial. They do not make much of a difference in how people engage with their work, their organization, or whether or not they stay at the job or with that organization. It just does not make a difference with these shallow attempts. As leaders, we can do better.
Recognition is largely about behavior and doing something to call out positive performance or outcome. Catch someone doing something good and recognize it.
Appreciation focuses on the performance plus the employee’s value as a person. Take that in for a moment. Appreciation focuses on the performance plus the employee’s value as a person. Even though we are talking about adults, I am sure the phrase “Catch someone doing something good and recognize it” sounds like one of the techniques we use with our early childhood classes to promote positive behaviors. It is our human behavior at play here. Fundamentally, it is the same though our approach differs in the methods we use with an adult and a child because if you talk to an adult like a child, it is patronizing and nobody likes that.
Let's look more at that appreciation piece. Appreciation is non-judgmental. It is not about if someone did a good or bad job. It is simply about having gratitude for them, their effort, or their willingness to help. Here is a standard appreciation. "Hey Shandra, thanks for staying late yesterday." Do you think Shandra actually feels like you care that she stayed late? Really, we can do better here. Here is an example of heartfelt appreciation. "Ms. Shandra, I truly appreciate you staying late to put the classroom materials together with Ms. Latisha. Thank you so much for spending the extra time making our two-year-old room safe and nurturing and interesting for our kids. The parents notice and so do I." It is quite different, isn’t it?
Recognition is doing something to call out positive performance or outcome. For example, "Ms. Shandra, thank you so much for going above and beyond to make our two-year-old room safe, nurturing, and interesting for our kids. The parents notice and so do I. As a token of the school's appreciation for your time, I want to present you with this gift card to recognize you for providing exceptional assistance to Ms. Latisha last week. Take the family out to ice cream. We are really grateful they shared you with us that evening." You are acknowledging that she spent her evening at work and was not able to spend it with her family.
This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, Appreciation & Recognition: Supporting Employee Engagement, presented by Katie Ryan Fotiadis, MSHROD, CNP.