South-Western - Management  
The Leader's Role in Employee Motivation
Topic Motivation
Key Words Recognition, leadership, motivation, praise, gratitude
News Story 

Study after study has shown that there is a clear and direct link between recognition received on the job and employee performance. Both managers and employees agree that recognition really does work to get the desired behavior. A simple thank you for doing good work can increase the likelihood that an employee will want to continue to contribute, so why is it that so many leaders are so poor at showing their gratitude?

To become better motivators, leaders need to overcome their objections to providing recognition, including these top three reasons:

1. I'm not sure how to give recognition: these leaders need to be trained in the importance of employee recognition. They should also discuss potential strategies with their management staff to get buy-in and seek feedback on their current recognition behaviors.

2. I don't feel that providing recognition is an important part of my job: organizations need to set the expectation that providing recognition is not optional but is integral to the success of the company. Leaders should be evaluated on their efforts and employee recognition should be a part of the planning of the organizational, team, and individual goals.

3. I don't have the time to do it: the best forms of recognition (personal praise, public recognition, positive voicemails or notes), require very little time. Simple techniques such as adding catching people doing something right to a manager's to-do list can make employee recognition a lot more doable.

Here's some advice that can help you become a more effective motivator:

1. Find out what your employees want; don't assume you know

2. Realize that one type of recognition no longer fits all

3. Lead by example - model the behavior you expect others to follow

Leaders should also take an active role in recognition by adapting techniques that make it a normal part of their routine. For example, a general manager from Xerox Corporation saved a few minutes at the end of every management team meeting to go around and have everyone share one action they had taken to recognize someone on their staff since the last meeting.

Timely, sincere, specific praise is the most effective form of recognition and should happen on a daily basis. Focusing on the positive in the workplace rather than the negative can bring a renewed energy and excitement. As leaders learn to appreciate the employees that they have, their value to the organization will increase accordingly.


If both managers and employees agree that recognition is an effective motivator at work, why do so few leaders express their gratitude in meaningful ways for work well done? Give at least three reasons.


What qualities make praise or recognition at work meaningful?


List at least three techniques that managers could use to improve the quality and quantity of recognition they are giving at work.

Source "The Leader's Role in Employee Motivation," MWorld, Winter, 2006, pp. 16-19.
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