RECOGNIZING YOUR EMPLOYEES increases the likelihood that they will do good work — and will want to continue to work for you. For these reasons alone, you'd think the use of recognition would be standard operating procedure in today's organizations. But it's not.

Here are the six leading excuses for not using recognition, listed in priority order as reported by managers who don't use recognition:

  1. “I'M UNSURE HOW BEST TO RECOGNIZE MY EMPLOYEES.” Managers who consider giving recognition to be a difficult task need training, to be provided with individual feedback, for example, or to be shown positive examples and techniques that they can use whatever their time and resource constraints.

  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 an optional activity, but an integral part of the organization's strategies, specifically tied to achieving the company's goals. Managers need to be evaluated on the success of their efforts at providing recognition in a frequent and meaningful way.

  3. “I DON'T HAVE THE TIME.” Some of the most effective ways of saying thank you (personal or written praise, public recognition, positive voicemail or e-mail messages, etc.) require very little time to initiate and accomplish.

  4. “I'M AFRAID I MIGHT LEAVE SOMEBODY OUT.” Managers who regularly recognize their employees translate this concern about possibly forgetting someone into a greater commitment to recognize everyone who deserves it. Just remember, if at any time you leave someone deserving out, it is perfectly acceptable to simply apologize and make amends.

  5. “EMPLOYEES DON'T VALUE THE RECOGNITION I HAVE GIVEN IN THE PAST.” Instead of being put off by what might not have worked in the past, managers should make a fresh start and find out what forms of recognition their employees would value most. By involving employees in decisions that affect their own motivation, managers increase the employees' commitment and buy-in, as well as the likelihood of success.

  6. “MY COMPANY IS NO HELP WHEN IT COMES TO RECOGNITION.” Recognition efforts can flourish even in the absence of formal organizational support. Sometimes, asking top management to use recognition shows that you're serious about the activity and can start the ball rolling throughout your company.

Bob Nelson, PhD, is president of Nelson Motivation Inc. in San Diego; best-selling author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, The 1001 Rewards & Recognition Fieldbook, and Managing For Dummies; and a frequent presenter to management groups, conferences and associations. For more information, call (800) 575-5521, visit, or send an e-mail to Bob at