The only thing worse than no recognition

…. is bad recognition.

A good friend of mine works for a very large high street retail company. Last week they gave her an ‘above and beyond’ type award for excellent customer service.

Picture this.

A certificate. Of sorts. A photocopied piece of paper that looked like it had been designed using clipart from Word. It was slightly out of line, as if it had been copied and then copied again, and the colours were all washed out. The date of the ‘award’ was in one font. My friends name in another.

Well, I say name. Because they got it wrong. Both of them. They used a shortened form of her given name that she doesn’t use. And an entirely different surname. It started with the same letter, but that was about it. The person who gave her this so called token of recognition acknowledged that it has the incorrect name. But they gave it to her anyway, rather than take the time to get another printed. As a final insult, the certificate was put in a cheap, plastic A4 frame. Noting that the certificate wasn’t actually A4, but slightly smaller.

My friend showed it to me, and simply said: ‘what the bloody hell am I supposed to do with that?’


What should have been an engaging experience turned instead into a demotivator. A joke. She does not feel appreciated, she feels annoyed.

When it comes to acknowledging and recognising your employees, you don’t have to spend loads of money. You don’t necessarily need fancy gifts or expensive tokens. You don’t even need a formal scheme. Sometimes, a simple a thank you is all that is required.

But if you are going to do employee recognition, then please do it properly. Or quite simply, don’t bother doing it at all.

9 thoughts on “The only thing worse than no recognition

  1. Couldn’t agree more! Sometimes all people want is a thankyou, rarely do people want some kind of certificate of appreciation they just want acknowledgement – good post!

  2. I worked in an office that had an employee of the month award, the prize being a (usually very nice) bottle of wine. Which was great but when the one muslim employee was awarded it they didn’t ‘adjust’ the prize to something that wasn’t forbidden by her religion. She laughed it off but I did think it was rather crass, and we had a whip round among the staff for a nice scarf.

  3. I hope that your friend gave feedback to the person or department which was responsible and that, if she did, it was heard. Probably the only good thing that can come from this is that the organisation concerned learns from itand changes.

    • Thanks for commenting Sarah. She didn’t give any feedback – I think her feeling is that doing so would be dangerous, which speaks volumes about their organisational culture.

  4. A thank you is all it needs to make someone feel appreciated, but the thing is that a simple ‘thank you’ is the most difficult to utter. Leaders and HR feel that people value certificates and awards more, which might be largely true, but has to be given in the right spirit. How an employee is appreciated and made to feel reflects the company’s culture; one should always remember that.

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