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The Recognize Book

How Recognition Can Backfire & Common Misconceptions

Recognition is often seen as a positive thing, whether it be recognition for a job well done or recognition for a particular talent or achievement. However, in some cases, recognition can backfire and have negative consequences.

Using a One-Size-Fits-All Recognition Approach

Using the same recognition strategy for everyone is not an effective approach to recognizing employees because it fails to account for individual differences in motivation and preferences. It can lead to feeling overlooked or undervalued and can be seen as insincere and meaningless. To ensure effective recognition, it should be tailored to the individual’s preferences and achievements and be creative and innovative to keep employees engaged and motivated.

Impersonal Recognition

Employee recognition is a critical component of building a positive work culture, but it can have unintended negative consequences when it becomes an afterthought. Employees who feel that recognition is not given enough thought or consideration may begin to feel undervalued and unappreciated.

Giving impersonal recognition that does not take into account an employee’s wants and needs can be just as damaging. It can make employees feel like they are not being heard or understood, which can lead to decreased motivation and engagement. Here are a few examples of what genuine appreciation looks like:

  • Congratulations on your hard work paying off! Your dedication to your goals is inspiring and your achievements are well deserved.
  • You nailed it in the presentation! Your confidence and expertise shone through and you captivated the audience. Keep up the fantastic work!
  • We appreciate your attention to detail and efficiency in completing this report. Your commitment to delivering quality work is exceptional and greatly valued.
  • You have a special talent for tackling complex problems with ease. Your resourcefulness and quick thinking never cease to amaze us.
  • Your efforts have not gone unnoticed. Your contributions to the team are invaluable and we are lucky to have you on board.
  • Great job on taking the initiative and going above and beyond what was expected. Your proactivity and willingness to take on new challenges are impressive.

Giving Recognition Not Based on Metrics

This is an all-too-common occurrence in many workplaces. When recognition is not tied to individual performance, it can make high-performing employees feel like their efforts are not being recognized or appreciated. This can lead to a lack of motivation and a decrease in job satisfaction. It can also create resentment among employees who feel like they are not being rewarded for their hard work.

How to Avoid Anti-Patterns

Anti-patterns are common pitfalls or ineffective practices that can hinder the success of various processes or systems. To optimize any process, it is important to identify and avoid these anti-patterns.

Avoiding Favoritism

One tip for avoiding favoritism in employee recognition is to restrict the same people from receiving the same types of recognition repeatedly. This means that if an employee has received a particular type of recognition recently, they may not be eligible for that type of recognition again until a certain period has passed or until they have demonstrated new accomplishments or achievements. With Direct Report on Recognize, managers can avoid recognizing the same employees repeatedly. It provides managers with a list of employees who they haven’t recognized yet and ensures that managers can only recognize an employee once per recognition period. Direct Report also tracks recognition history for each employee, so managers can see which employees still need to be recognized. 

By limiting the frequency of recognition in this way, organizations can create a more equitable and inclusive recognition program that rewards a broader range of employees for their contributions and achievements.

Avoiding Cheating

It is crucial to ensure that the recognition program is fair and transparent and that there is no room for cheating. Organizations can put measures in place to ensure that employees are not cheating the system. Here are some actions that could count as cheating:

People Getting Points for Old Recognitions

Recognitions based on past achievements or accomplishments can undermine the purpose of the recognition program. It is essential to ensure that the recognition program focuses on recent accomplishments and encourages ongoing contributions.

Recognizing the Same People

Recognizing the same people repeatedly can create perceptions of favoritism or bias. Organizations can restrict the same people from receiving the same types of recognition repeatedly to promote fairness and inclusivity. 

Recognize has a feature that limits the number of badges that can be given and received. This means that some badges, such as the Leadership badge, can only be given once a quarter, and others, like the Thank You badge, can only be given once a day. This helps ensure that employees are not overloaded with recognition and that the recognition they do receive is meaningful and well-deserved.

Messages are Weak

Recognition messages should be specific, personalized, and meaningful to the employee receiving them. Weak recognition messages can be demotivating and ineffective. Ensuring that recognition messages are sincere, relevant, and timely is important.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff 

Organizations should focus on the overall value of the recognition program rather than getting caught up in minor details. While ensuring that the recognition program is fair, transparent, and effective is important, it is equally important to keep the bigger picture in mind.

Start Small and Grow

Organizations can start with a small pilot recognition program and gradually expand it over time. This approach allows organizations to test and refine the recognition program before rolling it out on a larger scale.


Consistency is key to the success of the recognition program. Organizations should ensure that recognition is consistent across all employees and that it is based on clear and objective criteria.

Common Recognition Misconceptions

Effective employee recognition is often undermined by common misconceptions that hinder the development of a positive recognition culture. However, acknowledging employees promptly, authentically, and personally can create a work environment where employees are inspired to excel and exceed expectations. Such recognition boosts employee morale and cultivates a sense of belonging and commitment to the organization, leading to increased productivity, retention, and overall success.

If you are planning to initiate an employee recognition program, be aware of the following myths:

Financial Compensation is the Best Choice

One common misconception is that financial compensation is the best form of recognition. While compensation is an important factor in employee satisfaction, it is not the only factor. Recognition programs that focus on non-monetary rewards such as public praise, opportunities for growth and development, and flexible work arrangements can be equally effective.

Employee Recognition Lacks Quantifiable Metrics

Another misconception is that employee recognition programs lack quantifiable metrics, making it difficult to measure their impact. While recognition programs may not have easily measurable metrics, organizations can use a variety of methods, such as employee engagement surveys, retention rates, and productivity levels, to gauge the effectiveness of their recognition program.

Employee Recognition Programs are Time-Consuming

Some organizations may believe implementing an employee recognition program is time-consuming and not worth the effort. However, recognition programs can be designed to fit the organization’s needs and can be as simple or complex as necessary. Recognize recommends admins and leaders spend either 30min a week or 30min a month depending on the situation.

The ROI for Recognition Programs is Generally Low

Another misconception is that recognition programs’ return on investment (ROI) is generally low. However, research has shown that recognition programs can positively impact employee engagement, retention, and productivity, leading to significant ROI for the organization.

Source: SHRM

Recognize offers a fantastic employee recognition ROI calculator that can help companies determine the financial benefits of implementing an employee recognition program. By using this tool, companies can input their specific data, such as their workforce size and average employee salary, to better assess the benefits of employee recognition programs and make data-driven decisions.

Recognition Programs Integrated

Some organizations may view recognition programs as old-fashioned or outdated. However, recognition programs can be modernized and adapted to meet the needs of a diverse workforce. For example, Recognize allows for integrations across different platforms such as Teams, Slack, etc. These integrations enable seamless communication and collaboration between employees, managers, and teams.

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