Ditch the Cookie Cutter: How to Give Authentic Recognition in the Workplace

Employee RecognitionAll recognition is not created equal. Simply giving an employee a pat on the back or sending a generic email can actually have the opposite of the intended affect.

These insincere forms of recognition can confuse or turn off an employee. To really affect engagement, recognition should be specific and thoughtful.


Free Download: Recognition in the Workplace


The key to genuine recognition is to get personal with your employees. Over time generic recognition will feel insincere and will lose all effect on employee engagement.

Consider these three tips as you dole out recognition in the workplace. They’ll help you provide feedback that fills employees with a sense of ownership and pride.


1. Think about what motivates the employee.

All employees desire recognition in their own way. Some prefer to be recognized publicly during a meeting or on your recognition software. Others are more introverted and prefer subtle recognition such as a card or a private comment.

Consider what drives each individual employee.

  • What type of work energizes them?
  • What are they most proud of?
  • Are they outgoing or shy?
  • What company goal and/or value was impacted?

Recognizing employees for things they’re passionate about will be more meaningful and sincere.


2. Remember what's important to the organization.

Keep your company’s mission and most important values in mind. If someone’s actions exemplify the fundamental beliefs on which your organization is based, celebrate them and encourage other employees to do the same. This provides real-life examples of what matters in your organization.

Try to identify behavior that impacts the most important goals, then recognize those individuals. This reminds everyone of the organization’s important benchmarks and keeps them pushing toward accomplishing them.


3. Enhance recognition with storytelling.

The more detail you can provide in your recognition, the better. Generic statements like, “Thanks for helping me out yesterday,” serve little purpose. The recipient may or may not remember what you’re talking about, and even if they do, his or her coworkers are in the dark.

Go into detail on how the person helped you and what made their aid meaningful. Instead of saying, “Thanks for the help,” be specific, such as, “I really appreciate you staying late to help me with my expense reports last night. Thanks to you, I was able to make my tight deadline.”

Reading a story on an engagement platform and discovering those extra details cements why the action is valued and encourage similar behavior from other employees.


Recognition is one of the most important drivers of employee engagement, but it has to come from a meaningful place. Employees see right through cookie-cutter praise. But if you are authentic in recognizing their hard work, they’ll appreciate you and be encouraged to continue accomplishing organizational goals.



Only about half of employees believe they receive authentic recognition from their immediate supervisor. Find out more and how to address that issue in our latest research report, Recognition in the Workplace.

Recognition in the Workplace