Everyone Needs a Trophy – Recognizing and Celebrating Achievement

Try HardAmong the many popular researchers of the generational differences in the workplace is Bruce Tulgan. Besides well-received books on managing Generations X and Y, Mr. Tulgan has written 16 other books on a variety of workplaces issues and concerns. Along the way, Mr. Tulgan takes on and largely dismantles myths commonly held about how different generations act in the workplace, what they value, and what to expect from them as a leader. The central focus of his Gen-Y study, “Not Everyone Gets a Trophy” specifically addressed the commonly held perception that Gen-Y’ers were an entitled group of spoiled brats used to frequent and effusive praise for their accomplishments, in contrast to the Baby Boomers who were content to “donkey-up” for 30 years, get the gold watch, and slip off into the sunset with little or no emotional overhead or investment required.

In reality, recognizing achievement is not a generational difference to be managed according to the achiever, or as perceived by the leader. Karl Wiegers of Eastman Kodak noted that when he was manager of a particular work group, he used to recognize minor milestones or a singular “well done” with a package of M&M’s and a note of thanks attached. He observed over time that while the candy disappeared quickly, the notes remained pinned to bulletin boards, or stuck to computers or put under the glass of a desktop. The takeway for him was that recognition mattered, no matter how small. What he went on to say was how many differing ways there are to recognize things that aren’t as obvious as one would think.

Timeliness is the first element to recognition. Being direct and personal are two others, along with specificity. Wiegers list a variety of ways including devoting time at regularly scheduled staff meetings for teammates top call out those who helped them, in some way since the last meeting. The traveling trophy and the “bread and circus” of food rewards are things that every person may process in their own way and contribute to team building. Most critically, “Manage By Walking Around” allows team leaders to know what is happening and to be timely with noticing a key event or performance. These opportunities must be seized upon. A leader must be visible and know their people so that when someone steps outside their comfort zone to tackle an assignment that others may have been more comfortable with, you need to be on the spot.