The Pros and Cons of These Everyday Employee Recognition Ideas

The-Pros-and-Cons-of-These-Everyday-Employee-Recognition-IdeasIn our ebook, 40 Ways to Show Love to Your Employees, we provide you with 40 proven, fun, sentimental, and fresh ideas on how to recognize your employees.

But recognition is more complicated than simply selecting an option from this totally awesome ebook (if I do say so myself). If not executed correctly, some types of employee recognition can have some negative — and unexpected — consequences.


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Below is a list of some common employee recognition ideas—and the pros and cons of each. Browse through the list of ideas to find out how some types of recognition can work to increase employee engagement or backfire with an opposite effect.


Recognize Publicly


Pro: Showcasing employee accomplishments (like on a public, peer-to-peer recognition platform) lets employees know you’re proud of them. In turn, they’re motivated to work hard to earn that recognition again. Think parents cheering at their 6th-grader’s soccer game.

Con: It’s unrealistic to think you can publicly recognize every single employee for every single accomplishment. So how do you decide what makes the cut? Which accomplishments are significant enough to publicly recognize? How do you decide which employees make the board? To your employees, it might seem that a person or accomplishment that doesn’t make the cut is undervalued or unappreciated.


Supply Snacks


Pro: Bringing in a box of donuts or catering lunch is an easy and effective way of showing you appreciated a team or group’s latest accomplishment. Not only do employees get to enjoy a mid-day treat, but it also gives them a chance to take a break from work to celebrate and socialize with coworkers.

Con: From gluten, peanut, and lactose allergies to no-carb diets and all-juice detoxes, one type of food doesn’t seem to please all anymore. To include everyone, you need to make sure there’s at least one thing on the table each employee can enjoy. Asking for preferences, creating a list, and making multiple shopping trips can quickly turn your fiesta into more of a headache than a hoopla.


Celebrate Work Anniversaries


Pro: Recognizing work anniversaries give you a chance to show each and every employee that you appreciate their hard work year round—not just when they reach a success measure that’s good for business. When employees feel that their time and effort is valued, regardless of the final outcome, they’re motivation and productivity increases.

Con: What if you forget an anniversary or overlooked it on your calendar? Failing to recognize one valuable employee (when you took the time to recognize all the others) is like saying “I forgot about you,” and it will not go over well. At the very least, you risk disengaging that employee and losing the respect or trust of the others.


Allow Flexibility


Pro: A little time off goes a long way. Giving high-performing employees the flexibility to take their kids to work in the morning, go for a long lunch with old friends, or head home early to tend to visiting family will result in more motivated, more productive, and more engaged employees in the long run.

Con: High-performing employees are definitely not the ones you want working less. When your best employees spend less time working, one of two things can happen: 1) less work gets done, or 2) the same amount of work gets done at a lower quality.


Team Outings


Pro: Celebrate and recognize accomplishments with some time out of the office. Whether you spend an afternoon at the movies or a week on a destination team retreat, this type of recognition allows employees to get to know one another in a relaxed setting and recharge their motivation and productivity batteries before going back to work.

Con: Team outings allow coworkers to interact without the rules and restrictions of the office—and sometimes that’s a bad thing. If you’re not upfront with your expectations ahead of time, a Friday night team outing can lead to a Monday morning HR policy meeting.



Recognition makes employees feel valued and is an essential component to engaging and retaining your people. But when recognition is given carelessly, it can have the opposite effect. To avoid any unintended consequences, be strategic with your recognition strategy, ask employees how they want to be recognized, and get a frequent gauge on if recognition is making employees feel valued and increasing engagement.

Free ebook! 40 Ways to Show Love to Employees

Published January 6, 2014 | Written By Natalie Wickham