Recognition requires “just because” feedback

Recognition doesn’t have to cost something to mean something.

Employee recognition is always a hot topic, especially in this age of high attrition and mobility. But the surest, simplest way to show appreciation to people is through positive feedback. For individuals, positive feedback boosts motivation, enhances productivity, and improves overall job satisfaction. For teams, it lifts overall effectiveness: High-performers share nearly six times more positive feedback than average teams, while low-performers experience nearly twice as much negative feedback than average teams.

It also makes a difference in how we feel. Positive feedback broadens and builds our confidence, determination and, most importantly — our happiness.

Consider this thought experiment: If I were to offer you the choice of receiving a $50 gift card or a $5 gift card, which would you take? That’s an easy choice. But what if your friend got a $50 gift card and you received a $5 gift card? Who do you think would be happier? Even if you’re an altruist, there’s probably a part of you that’s disappointed to receive a card of lesser value. Your friend, on the other hand, is likely elated.

But here’s the surprising research: People who received a $5 Amazon gift card unexpectedly – as a “just because” gift – experienced nearly the same level of happiness as those who received a $50 Amazon gift card they expected for a birthday, graduation or special occasion. For one-tenth the cost, it was possible to produce nearly the same value.

How? The secret of recognition lies in two words: Just because. Giving a gift for no apparent reason other than to show affection is an expression of care that surprises and delights. “Just because” gifts mean more to the recipient, even if they cost less.

The same holds true for the human gift of feedback: Sharing positive feedback “just because” with a colleague, friend or loved one can deliver a similar effect. After I shared this research at a recent keynote event, someone from the audience came up to me afterwards. She said: “You know, my company recently gave me an Excellence in Performance Award. I knew I was up for it, and when it was announced, I wasn’t surprised. It’s a nice honor, but honestly, the award just sits in a folder tucked away in my desk.” Then she said this: “But the spot award I got from one my closest colleagues, out of the blue? I framed that one. It’s on my desk, and I look at it everyday.”

No alt text provided for this image

The big lesson? Recognition doesn’t have to cost something to mean something.

Positive feedback isn’t a specialty item or a “nice to have” feature of work. It’s an essential practice that helps us achieve better relationships and results. The best part? Going positive doesn’t take much time and requires virtually no training — just a deliberate effort to show others that their work matters and that they matter, too.

“Just because” feedback is just better. Try giving positive feedback today!

Leave a Reply