The Psychology of Recognition and the Physiological Impact on Performance

28 October, 2014

The Psychology of Recognition

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, two of the most valuable psychological needs we have as human beings are the need to be appreciated and the need to “belong.” These needs are met through peer-to-peer thanks and recognition. Remember that the purpose of recognition is to drive greater levels of “discretionary effort.” Such discretionary effort comes when we, as people, feel inspired to do more.


Physiological Impact on Performance

Oxytocin is the well-known “love hormone.” Our bodies create Oxytocin when we feel loved or appreciated (even shaking someone’s hand or giving them a hug creates this hormone). Recent research shows that people who work under the influence of Oxytocin perform better and are more trustworthy at work.

When your company embraces a modern recognition program and people start thanking each other, trust and engagement go up – improving employee morale, quality, and customer service.

Of course recognition does not replace the need for feedback, accountability, and goal-setting. These performance management programs are still badly needed to drive alignment and performance. But Forbes' research showed that in 83% of the organizations they studied, suffer from a deficit in “recognition.” And these companies are under-performing their peers.

Additionally, recognition is not only something executives should do – it should take place throughout the organization. The research clearly shows that top-down recognition is not what makes companies thrive today – it’s recognition by your peers, the people you work with every day.

Next time you see someone doing the right thing, take a minute and thank them openly.

It’s good management and good business.

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