can you recover from a recognition fail?

By in Appreciation, Recognition Strategies, and Talent Management
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In an ideal world, every recognition moment is a win. Everyone cheers. The right people feel celebrated. And you feel great about making it happen.

But, no matter how hard we all might try, recognition “wins” don’t always happen. Sometimes, in fact, recognition fails.

Imagine you’ve just completed a year-long project.

You spent hours, days—maybe even weeks—in meetings. You expertly negotiated between IT, operations, and the legal team. You convinced the vendor to give your company a discount on their services, which only added to the cost-savings the organization will realize. And, best of all –the launch goes off without a hitch.

At the end-of-year staff meeting, your chief executive is recognizing team members for efforts that went above and beyond expectations. She gets to the last award, and as you listen, you realize she’s describing the project you led! She highlights the amazing results. You feel proud. You wonder what to say when you accept the award.

“Come on up here…” she says.

Only it’s not you she invites to the stage. It’s your senior vice president. He’s walking up to the stage. He’s accepting the award. He’s saying into the microphone, “Thank you! And, um…uh…thanks to the team for making this happen!”

He didn’t really just get the award that should have gone to you, did he? (Insert the sound of a mic drop here.) Truth is—he has no idea how this project happened. But, he doesn’t admit it. He accepts the award and returns to his seat.

Does this scenario ring a bell? Maybe right now you’re nodding your head, or saying to yourself, “Well! Let me tell you about the time…

…my manager completely forgot it was my 10th work anniversary!”

…my organization discontinued the Perfect Attendance award the very same year I would have won.”

…my name was spelled wrong on the plaque I received for Top Sales of the Year.”

The list goes on.

It’s not a question of whether or not recognition fails will happen. They do. The question is: can you recover after recognition fail?

Thankfully, the answer is yes.

If you commit a recognition fail, or you’re aware of one, follow these three steps:

Step one: Apologize.

Step two: Don’t ruin your apology with an excuse.

Step three: Try to make it right.

Yes, it’s that simple.

Let’s return to the previous example.

Back at your desk, you try to convince yourself that the recognition fail didn’t really happen. The senior vice president did not just accept and receive your award.

Then your manager comes to your desk.

“I’m so sorry,” she says. “That award should have gone to you.”

(That recognition fail doesn’t feel quite as bad now. But it still stings.)

A month later, in the department meeting, your manager takes the stage.

“I want to recognize an employee who went above and beyond to get the job done. Please join me,” and this time…you hear your name.

As you stand next to your manager on the stage, she talks about the hours, days—and maybe even weeks—you spent in meetings. She applauds how you negotiated between IT, operations, and the legal team. She highlights the amount of money you saved the organization.

“And, best of all, thanks to your efforts, this launch went off without a hitch!” she says.

She hands you a plaque and a gift card. You wish your mom were in the audience.

There’s applause. The cameras flash. People rush the stage. (Well, okay, there’s just applause. But in your heart it feels as if you’ve won an Academy Award.)

Why does this recognition feel so important?

Because your manager said she was sorry.

She didn’t make excuses.

And now, she’s done what she can to make it right.

So, yes, if it’s handled well, everyone can recover after a recognition fail. (Trust me, I know.)

By liz sheffield
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