The Bad Impacts of Giving “Too Much” Recognition

March 1, 20199:41 am
Generic placeholder image


Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.

– Margaret Cousins

Gallup study on Employee Recognition proved that recognition does not only benefit employees, but also company. The study found that recognition does boost employee engagement, increase productivity, as well as loyalty to company which then lead to higher retention. According to Gallup’s analysis, “employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they’ll quit in the next year.”  Thus, missing out the opportunity of a simple strategy as recognition could impact the entire company’s bottom line.

Unfortunately, employee engagement survey commissioned by DecisionWise suggested that managers are very poor at providing regular positive feedback or recognition that could drive employees disengagement and weakened performance. Ideally, in order to optimise employee engagement and motivation, leaders should provide at least five compliments for every criticism. Yet, it should be noted that managers should not praise employees for doing something that is expected. Giving “too much” recognition for every small thing might affect badly on employee’s performance and their coworkers as well.

See also: The Effects of Office Politics in a Company

A study paper written by Ian Larkin titled ‘The Dirty Laundry of Employee Award Programs: Evidence from the Field’ revealed some problems firm will face if managers praise employees for jobs that are expected. First, employees ended up ‘gaming’ recognition. Ian implemented reward in his study – whoever showing up on time for certain week will get the reward. It, then, revealed that employee will only show up on time if they are being rewarded. Second, employees who previously had excellent attendance and were highly productive ended up suffering a 6 to 8 percent productivity decrease. It is because, they think the program is not conducted fairly.  Lastly, the reward program actually led to decrease productivity by 1.4 percent that cost almost $1,500 a month.

Then, how can managers decide the right time to give recognition or feedback?

While there might be a few good way to implement recognition such as peer-to-peer feedback, Tom Gimbel suggests that employees, firstly, should understand company’s culture. So, they can measure and get clear expectation of their rights and obligations. Gimbel also said “big accomplishments will mean much more when every little thing is not rewarded.”  Supporting what Gimbel said, Ankita Podder at O.C.Tanner proposed four questions you should ask yourself when recognising those around you.

01   Are expectations set right? – Expectation is vital for collaboration. It enables employees to objectively measure success, understand what is non-negotiable, and what constitutes as going above and beyond. Also recognition will be expected only when deserved and not for all efforts.

02   How often do I recognise and what for? – Excessive verbal praise might impact to productivity as employees might feel there is no room for improvement. The best ways is to be specific about what you are appreciating for and that you are focusing on effort as much as outcome.  

03   Is it encouraging the right behaviour at workplace? – Oftentimes, if you only focus on rewards, it will endanger collaboration within teams. Therefore, take a moment to analyse how work is done and whether giving recognition will result in shift behaviour or not is essential.

04   Is my team energised by recognition? – Recognition or praise is intended to motivate, energize, and drive joy in work. If it goes the other way around, you should know that probably you are not doing it right.

Read also: How Human Resources Help Against Cyber-Crime Attack