Are You Teaching Employees to Care Less?

If you subscribe to the belief – “My employees get paid for the work they do. That and just having a job in this economy should be appreciation enough.” – then you are training your employees to care less about their work, to want to invest less of themselves into the quality of the work delivered.

David Lee told this well in a post on, describing the result of a boss never expressing appreciation to an employee who consistently goes the extra distance:
“Think what a motivation killer that was. Even though you still worked hard and did a great job because of your work ethic and professional pride, your heart was just a little less into your work. You probably cared just a little bit less.”

Not only are you teaching employees to care less about their work, you are also missing an opportunity to reinforce desired behaviors, another point David highlights:
“This is one of the under-recognized benefits of showing appreciation and recognition: when you acknowledge – with specificity – the good work that you notice, you reinforce it.”

These are the two greatest benefits of strategic employee recognition: reinforcing those behaviors you most desire in employees to achieve your strategic objectives and doing so in a way that encourages and enhances their own engagement in the work. With such powerful benefits so easily and economically available, why would you be so miserly with a simple but sincere and specific “thank you?”

Critics of employee engagement use this to their advantage. A recent Workforce Management article highlighted the lack of credibility of employee engagement surveys that result in numeric scores:
“Too many companies conduct the survey, and then struggle to improve the metric, without any idea of whether their more ‘engaged employees’ are behaving in ways that foster or promote better customer service or higher productivity.”

That's precisely the definition of engaged vs. satisfied. And also precisely why you must have a tool in place that can measure and report on employee behaviors reflective of company values in achievement of strategic objectives. What’s the best tool for this? Strategic recognition that links positive and frequent praise directly with a behavior or action that reflects values and objectives. Now you can chart growth as well as areas of low performance for targeted intervention. With such a tool in place, you can train employees – through their work and in the most positive of ways – to care more, not less, about the behaviors and actions you most need to succeed.

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