One of the most powerful and inexpensive motivators readily available to every leader or supervisor is Recognition. When a supervisor appreciates the good performance of employees, there is the tendency for the employees to feel good about themselves. Self-confidence and self-esteem increase tremendously. At the same time, individuals start feeling that the supervisor holds them in high esteem. And collectively the whole team would want to retain that inspiring feeling. Recognition keeps a team producing the best quality, in larger quantity for a sustained period.

How Should the Supervisor Recognise the Performance of Employees?

Supervisors should adopt the habit of praising their employees in public. Immediately you find that your employee has done some good job in some key areas, go to him, pat him on the back or put your h and on his shoulders in a friendly way or just shake h ands with him. Look straight into his eyes. Tell him precisely what he has done right and how happy you feel about him. Allow some moments of silence to let the message sink into his ears and ‘soul’ and let him feel that you are so proud of him.

The advantage of praising an employee in the presence of his colleagues is that other co-workers are most likely to get motivated to perform well so as to earn such praise from you and also the affected individual would feel better than in private. This, in effect, sets in trail, the road to excellence on the part of the entire team. Praising can also be done in private by calling the person to your office sharing your appreciation.

Besides, recognition can also be done by writing some appreciative remarks on letters, memos, reports, notes, and so on. When leaders give remarks like ‘A good report, keep it up’. ‘A good investigative effort’; An excellent drafting, thanks’; ‘Well done’, etc. the employee feels good about himself. He reads your remarks more than once; he shares them with his friends and co-workers. He feels good about you too. Remember, should you entrust him with additional jobs he would not take them as additional burden. Instead, he would feel that you had a high expectation of him. And he would always want his best to come up to your expectations. Thus, you win, he wins and the company wins too.

Suggested Steps for Giving Recognition

  • Make a general reference to the performance being recognized. For example, “Joe, I have read the project report you produced and it’s excellent.”
  • Give specific examples of performance. For example: “There are three things I liked about the report: you gave a brief summary of our financial performance for the last quarter; secondly, you identified high costs that we need to watch closely; and finally, you suggested concrete steps for preventing wastes.”
  • Mention personal qualities of the employee that contributed to the performance. For example, “I like the interest you have shown in your customer service program, and the initiative you took in coming up with recommendations.”
  • Mention resulting benefits to the department, company and to you as a supervisor e.g. “I must say that your recommendations have given us an action program which will go a long way to improve customer service in the department and also going to increase my chances of being rated high in this quarter.
  • Ask the employee if there is anything you can do to help maintain or improve present performance. For example, “I would like to know if there is anything, I can do to make it more interesting for you to do your work?”.

These steps are not a magical formula. They do require a serious commitment on the part of the supervisor or manager to use them tactfully and sincerely.

  • Where performance has been outst anding, supervisors should clearly and forcefully commend the individual who put up that excellent performance.
  • Furthermore, when an employee meets st andards in terms of time, quality and quantity, he should be praised.
  • Also, in a situation where a sub-st andard performer comes up a little more than usual, he must be encouraged to maintain and improve upon his performance.


All that has been said is true, but over-simplified. In fact, effectiveness of recognition depends on several variables. For example:

  • The person giving the recognition.
  • The nature of the recognition.
  • The personality of the person being recognized.

The nature of the recognition can also impact its effectiveness. Don’t let recognition become routine. When recognition becomes an automatic or mechanical response to specific employee performance, it becomes expected and therefore is not valued as highly. Also, outst anding achievement should receive recognition that is significantly different from recognition for st andard achievement. Inadequate recognition for either st andard or outst anding achievement may dampen the morale of employees.

Be cautious of the personality of the person being praised. Some employees need, want and will welcome recognition in endless quantity and of any quality. Most people however, want recognition they consider meaningful; that their performance is praise-worthy.

The person giving the recognition should be sincere. A supervisor who discriminately lavishes praise on everyone for mediocre work as well as outst anding work is not perceived as sincere. The same is true of the supervisor who only praises an employee just before asking that person to do an onerous job. Further, the “praiser” must be credible. If praise comes from someone with recognized experience and knowledge of the job such praise will have significant influence on the employee.

Since individual differences exist, supervisors must learn how to read their workers.

Managing people effectively does not mean recognising and recognising alone. It includes giving disciplinary action where due. The secret of successful management lies in the balanced blend of giving recognition and disciplinary action.

Dr. Richard Kyereboah