Be Careful with Your Kudos

Thumbs Up

Thumbs UpGiven the importance of recognizing the contributions of others, as well as the need to express gratitude frequently, it’s always encouraging to see organizations that embrace formal kudos awards. Whether the recognition appears in a newsletter, through an Employee of the Month award, or just a shout-out during team/company-wide meetings, the employee feels both seen and appreciated.

It seems crazy to think that there could be any drawback to expressing appreciation and gratitude, but there are potential pitfalls that should be avoided to ensure the positive intent is not lost.

In particular, it’s always helpful when the recognition is tied to the organization’s mission or values. Not only does that reinforce the value within the culture, but it ensures that a variety of positive workplace behaviors are rewarded. While it’s common to recognize/reward tangible results (i.e., hitting a goal, making a major sale, or hitting a deadline), there are plenty of other important behaviors to celebrate. Working collaboratively, acting with integrity, and being accountable are recognized publicly less often, but deserve high amounts of praise. When those positive organizational behaviors are rewarded consistently, it is more likely that they will become a part of the culture.

Of course, consistency is key. This can be particularly challenging as there’s a high degree of subjectivity when it comes to defining what deserves recognition. What one person deems “meeting expectations” is the same behavior another manager may believe is exemplary. Additionally, the right people need to see (or be notified) of the positive behavior in order to reward it. Many organizations add consistency and structure to their rewards program by initiating peer-nominated kudos awards that are announced monthly. With this design, employees at every level can identify the impact others are making in the business on a consistent basis.

Finally, beware of the message behind the recognition. For example, if you find that the kudos awards often reference employees who stayed late, answered emails on the weekend, or came into the office on a vacation day, the behavior you’re reinforcing is actually contributing to burnout. Certainly, it’s important to thank someone who went above and beyond due to rare circumstances, but when those situations become commonplace it signals a significant problem. Not only is there a danger in showing support for unhealthy behaviors, but it also means there has been a missed opportunity to implement behaviors like proactive problem solving, planning, etc.

There’s a delicate balance to strike in these situations. As you prepare your list of monthly kudos, it wouldn’t hurt to remind yourself of the adage, “What gets rewarded gets repeated.” What organizational behaviors would you like to see repeated more frequently?