Rewards and RecognitionAmong the dangerous people at large in the business world, are the hard-boiled types who see no reason to recognize a person who does something well if, after all, the person "was just doing his job."
It was back in elementary school that a teacher made a lasting impression on me by saying something along these lines: "Of course, it's kind and good to empathize with people when they're experiencing trouble. But it's just as important to sincerely join in their happiness when something has gone well for them." This idea had the ring of truth, so I've kept it in mind ever since.
Prompted by a short piece in the December 5 New York Times that made a similar point, I decided to look into research conducted by Shelly Gable, a social psychology professor at UCLA; Gian Gonzaga, formerly on UCLA's psychology faculty, now a research scientist at the relationship service eHarmony; and Amy Strachman, a graduate student.1
Gable, Gonzaga, and Strachman investigated which has the bigger effect on the strength of the bond between partners in a heterosexual couple a partner reacting supportively when the other person receives bad news, or a partner reacting enthusiastically to the arrival of good news. The answer:
... in their analysis of response styles, the researchers found that it was the partners' reactions to their loved ones' victories, small and large, that most strongly predicted the strength of the relationships. Four of the couples had broken up after two months, and the women in these pairs rated their partners' usual response to good news as particularly uninspiring.I think it's reasonable to extrapolate this finding to the work setting. If you want to maintain high employee engagement, loyalty and productivity, it makes good sense to recognize employees for doing their jobs well. That includes not only assignments that are out of the ordinary, but also the day-to-day tasks that need to be carried out with consistent skill and dedication.
Celebrating a partner's promotion as if it were one's own provides the partner with a tremendous emotional lift, said Dr. Gable, while playing down or belittling the news can leave a deep and lasting chill.
1 "Will You Be There for Me When Things Go Right? Supportive Responses to Positive Event Disclosures," by Shelly L. Gable, Gian C. Gonzaga, and Amy Strachman (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 91, No.5 (Nov 2006), pp. 904-917).