EVERYONE wants to be recognised for a job well done. When managers effectively recognise employees, it acts like a turbocharger and boosts performance, sometimes by as much as 50 per cent.

Managers need to understand the importance of recognition and ensure that there are opportunities to regularly praise staff for a job well done.

Frequent recognition is like applause; it rewards the accomplishment in real time.


An important cornerstone of effective recognition is the notion of “fairness”. Every employee should have the same opportunity to excel in his role and be appreciated for doing his job well.

In addition, the criteria and rules (formal and informal) must be clear and fairly applied to all employees.

In the workplace, “fairness” is not just a social nicety. Managers must follow a specific set of requirements to ensure the fair and widespread availability of recognition.

These are:

* Fair process

This refers to the consistency and equity of the means by which recognition is delivered. People believe processes are procedurally fair when they can voice their opinions and have some influence over the outcome.

* Fair outcome

This refers to the degree to which a result conforms to the individual’s personal sense of worth or accomplishment. The perception of fair outcome is heightened when people see the clear connection between recognition and performance.

* Fair treatment

This refers to the consideration, respect and sensitivity people receive when recognition is delivered. Interpersonal fairness reflects how people experience the emotional context of recognition, whether receiving it themselves or witnessing others being recognised.

* Fair explanation

Finally, “fair explanation” refers to the clarity of information that accompanies the distribution of rewards and recognition. The criteria for informational fairness include reasonableness, candidness, thoroughness and timeliness.

Finally, managers must not play favourites among their employees to ensure that everyone has the same opportunity to excel and be appreciated for work well done.

Yet, managers playing favourites remains a consistent concern amongst employees.

According to a 2008 Towers Perrin Global Recognition Study — which interviewed more than 10,000 workers in 13 countries that included major economies like the United States and Japan, emerging markets like Brazil and India, and other selected countries like Australia, Mexico and Singapore — even managers in high-performing companies with robust cultures rarely scored above 70 per cent in avoiding favouritism.


In the context of recognition, communication means being unambiguous about the connection between performance and rewards. Making the “if you do this, then we will do this” rules of recognition plain to everyone has been shown to contribute strongly to an effective manager-employee relationship.

When employees receive appreciation for their work, the norm of reciprocity comes into play. This means that individuals who receive rewards and appreciation for their performance reciprocate with a sense of obligation to respond with continued high performance.

When managers encourage employees to develop new and better ways of working, the manager-

employee conversation is taken to a higher level.

By empowering employees to find and implement better ways to work, they have the ability to define how they work, and how they can work well.

This control in turn confers greater responsibility for results, and makes recognition for achievements much richer.

Three must-dos

Other research shows that to foster this kind of employee self-determination, managers must do three things consistently:

* Be attentive. Show you are willing to listen.

* Be receptive. Show you are willing to acknowledge the value of what you hear.

* Be responsive. Show you are willing to take action.


Employees’ perception of fairness is a key element for a manager to gain trust. From the employee’s perspective, trust in a manager means having confidence that the manager has the employee’s well-being at heart and recognises performance when recognition is earned.

Analysis of the data from the 2008 Global Recognition Study showed employees have greater trust in managers when they:

* Engage in candid conversations. This is when communication is not just about conveying information on reward and recognition criteria, but a frequent, honest, personal chat on topics like individual performance, department and company success requirements, and status updates.

* Define clear and relevant performance targets. This is when managers break down department objectives into clear responsibilities for each employee.

* Hold people accountable for their results. This is when managers evaluate employee performances and deal effectively with situations where employees perform below expectations