HomeEmployee ExperienceHR StrategyOvercoming resistance: Transforming managers into champions of employee recognition

Overcoming resistance: Transforming managers into champions of employee recognition

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Managers’ support can be secured by highlighting the advantages of recognizing employees, such as boosting employee engagement, reducing burnout and enhancing productivity.

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No matter how great HR is at designing and delivering recognition programmes, they will never work without the support and ownership of your managers. For although your programme is your “secret sauce,” your managers are the ones using it (or not using it) to deliver that great “taste.” But what do you do when your managers don’t believe and buy into the concept of recognition? What do you do when they’re preventing you from achieving that ‘appreciation feeling,’ one where your people feel valued and appreciated for the contributions and differences they make?

Let me first say that you are not alone, that I’ve encountered this resistance time and time again from managers, having been in your shoes in the quest to turn doubters to advocates. To help you with this, let me share with you two ways to overcome this challenge and create a group of managers who understand, embrace and are advocates of recognition and appreciation.

Help managers understand the POWERS of recognition

The first thing to do is to help your managers see the power of recognition-  why it’s important to them as a manager, to their people and to the company as a whole. In my recent books on recognition ( Appreciate it! The Playbook for Employee Recognition and See it. Say it. Appreciate it! The Manager’s Guide to Employee Recognition) I call these “superpowers” as they can turn employees into superheroes, ones that do extraordinary things to help you, their colleagues and their companies innovate more, succeed more, and overcome obstacles and challenges.

Here are seven of these recognition and appreciation superpowers:

1. Employees are more engaged

Let’s start with employee engagement, something that most companies focus on and measure as they’ve come to see the power it can have on their business. Recognition has been proven to be a key driver of employee engagement, with a study by Deloitte finding that employee engagement was 14% higher in organisations where they practise employee recognition than in those without recognition. This should come as no surprise, for a key driver for engagement is to feel valued, which is a direct result of recognition.

2. Employees are happier

Employee happiness, like employee engagement, can also have a positive impact on a business. In Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage, he talks about how happiness leads to employees who feel more positive, are more creative, are better at solving problems, and are more effective collaborators, all of which contribute to a more successful company. And what is that connection to recognition? Well, according to a study that ranked the 26 factors of happiness on the job, they found that “the most important single job element for all people is appreciation for their work,” which, as we know, occurs through recognition.

3. Employees are less burned out

With burnout on the rise due to symptoms of the more fast-paced, complex and demanding modern workplace, it’s something that we all need to take seriously. Recognition can contribute to preventing and/or reducing burnout as it addresses some of the factors that can lead to it such as feelings of unfair treatment at work, unclear communication from managers and lack of manager support. Supporting this, one study found that when recognition hits the mark, 73% of employees are less likely to always or very often feel burned out.

4. Employees have a better sense of awareness

This next superpower moves from how the employee feels as a result of being recognized, to what they receive: An increased sense of awareness. This happens through feedback, which is formally and informally given each and every time an employee is recognized. It lets them know which of their efforts are most appreciated and valued, giving them a sense of achievement and an awareness of which actions and behaviours they should continue to lead to greater success.

5. Employees are more productive

It’s not just employees who benefit from recognition, the company does as well. One way is through an increase in productivity, since having employees who are engaged, happy, less burned out and more aware naturally leads to a more productive work environment. A study shows that 79% of employees would work harder if they felt their efforts were being recognized, and research done by Shawn Achor shows that employee productivity can increase by 30% when employees receive just one piece of praise a day. “Feedback through recognition quiets the negatives that take up so much of our employees’ thoughts and time, helping them know that they’re on the right track, that what they do matters and is truly making a difference.”

6. Company has stronger business results

Next, is that these other powers will ultimately help your company be more successful and achieve higher business results. According to a study, companies that excel at employee recognition on average are 12 times more likely to generate strong business results than their peers. And to make it even more compelling, according to another report, if organisations would double the number of employees who receive recognition for their work on a weekly basis, they would experience a 24% improvement in quality and a 10% reduction in shrinkage, both which contribute to achieving company goals.

7. Company has better employee retention

And finally, recognition can have an impact on employee turnover, with employees staying longer because they feel valued and appreciated through recognition. We often believe that pay is the number one reason people leave a company, but in fact, a study found that 79% of employees who quit their job cited a lack of recognition as the key driver. And for those who have not left their company, a study found that employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they’ll quit in the next year.

Help managers understand the IMPACTS of recognition 

It’s also important to let managers understand that recognition from them, as a manager, can have additional powers and impacts, some different and some multipliers of the previous powers. Here are the five that I share in my book:

  1. Stronger business results

    A study found that when leaders and managers are actively involved in employee recognition, companies are 9 times more likely to have strong business results.

  2. Improved relationship with managers

    58% of employees report that their relationship with their manager would improve if they were given more recognition.

  3. Improved morale

    70% of employees said that their motivation and morale would improve if their managers would simply thank them more.

  4. Improved trust

    Employees who were recognized were 34% more likely to trust senior leaders and 33% more likely to trust managers, compared to those who had never been recognized.

  5. More likely to recognize others

    When a manager recognizes their people, they in turn are 2.5 times more likely to recognize others.

I encourage you to share this information and data with your managers, using it to help them make the move from recognition doubters to adopters. Together you can leverage the power and impact that appreciation through recognition can have.


Debra Corey is a best-selling author, consultant, and keynote speaker. Her recent books include Appreciate it! The Playbook for Employee Recognition and See it. Say it. Appreciate it! The Manager’s Guide to Employee Recognition

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