Employers sometimes put a lot of effort into employee recognition programs, and well they should. The Ragan.com web site cites an infographic from Work.com that says among other interesting bits that employees need some form of recognition every seven days. It then goes on to detail some of the mistakes companies make in their recognition programs.

I observe that all the mistake have in common giving the impression of not really connecting with the employee.

An experience last week bears this out. It happens that as I conversed with a student about a class project, she mentioned an English professor who had inspired her the previous semester, helping to open up her insight into critical thinking. It seems to be human nature that you only hear about it when things go wrong. When everything works smoothly, people don’t think to mention it. So I consciously try to pass on positive feedback when I hear it. I believe a lot of people have good experiences, but just don’t think to say so, which can leave you feeling discouraged because you only hear negative feedback.

I was later in a hurry and passed my colleague’s office, almost forgetting about the positive feedback. Something led me to stop and go back. I shared what the student had told me, and she looked stunned.

“Thank you,” she said. “This couldn’t have come at a better time. I had one of those classes today where no one was prepared, no one seemed to care, and I was seriously questioning whether I make any difference to anyone. You have made my day.”

I felt pretty good about that, and also a bit chagrined that I had almost passed up passing the kudos along.

Just a couple of days ago after a Faculty Senate meeting, one of the members approached me and said, “I just wanted to thank you for passing on that feedback to my wife. She was really feeling down, but she came home encouraged after that. You made her day.”

I had no idea they were married, which is beside the point. That simple act of passing on positive feedback made enough difference to her for her to go home and tell her husband about it. In retrospect, it encouraged all three of us, and I’m quite sure it made a positive difference to all of our students, who benefited from teachers who were just a little more motivated than usual.

It didn’t take unusual talent or character or skill on my part. Just noticing something positive, and passing it on.

That’s all it takes, whether you’re a manager, a co-worker, a parent, or a spouse.

What have you noticed that’s “working,” that you haven’t commented on? Do you think it might make a difference if you said something?

Photo Credit: Trisha Vo cc

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