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Recognition at Work



How do people know they are doing a good job in the workplace? Recognition is a powerful tool for managers to increase employee engagement, feelings of satisfaction, and enthusiasm in the team. Think about the last time you were given recognition and praise, and how it made you feel. To really make a lasting, positive impact on your team, let’s talk about how to most effectively use recognition and rewards in the workplace.


The first thing that many people think about when we talk about rewards in the workplace is oftentimes money.

While monetary rewards are simple and straightforward, there is good reason to think a little further.

According to the University of Minnesota, rewarding performance with money can paradoxically reduce motivation rather than increase it[i]. This is because money isn’t part of the intrinsic nature of work itself, but an external factor. Rewards and recognition with lasting value support deeper wants and needs like career advancement and growth. With this in mind, here are some ideas for rewarding and recognizing your team that aren’t just financial.


Team Building:

Take the opportunity not only to give praise but raise team morale as a whole.

When an employee does particularly well, perhaps achieving an important milestone ahead of schedule or making other noteworthy contributions, reward the entire team with lunch! The employee who earned the lunch will not only get recognized, they’ll also be a hero to their teammates as well. Even if the team is remote, or if eating out is not feasible, ordering in or even scheduling a delivery to team members’ homes works for small teams. For less tangible options, giving an afternoon off or doing a team outing instead of work can serve the same purpose.


Leadership Rewards:

Another powerful way to motivate employees is to give them real power in the work they do.

Let the employee make a decision, such as declaring a “casual Friday”, deciding on the theme for a team lunch, or even having a hand in selecting the direction for the next sprint or work increment. Also, consider things like making the team member responsible for the outcome of a small project or otherwise increasing their responsibility and accountability. This gives the employee an opportunity to become personally invested in what they’re doing, making them in turn more motivated!


Direct Appreciation:

A valuable avenue to consider for praise giving is also one of the simplest.

Taking the time to directly praise and thank an employee is surprisingly powerful.

Call the employee into your office and let them know how their good work has benefited the team. Hand-write a note and leave it on their desk, or personally take them out to lunch to show your appreciation. An employee who knows what they do is valued and noticed will certainly feel motivated to keep up the good work!


Everyone likes to be recognized, and good work deserves a reward. Next time you feel an employee is in need of recognition, try one of these methods to reward them. After all, as William Arthur Ward once said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

[i] https://humanresources.umn.edu/performance-management/rewarding-performance