Exploring the Light and Shadows of Acknowledgment

Jun 03, 2019


Nancy Fredericks

Nancy Fredericks pens Women Lead Change's "Mindful Mondays" column, appearing the second Monday of every month. Fredericks is a preeminent Business Executive Strategist, Author and Thought Leader. Corporations like Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Adobe, Allergan and Transamerica have retained her to optimize individual and organizational performance. You can find her at www.CareerStretchZone.com. The views of Nancy Frederick's blogs represent her own and not necessarily the views of Women Lead Change.

I find it interesting in my Strategic Coaching practice that often the same issue is brought up by woman after woman over a short period. I believe this is the universe tapping me on the shoulder, insisting I write an article on the subject.

My female clients say:

I’m close to giving up. It doesn’t seem that my commitment to high-performance is even noticed. Some of my co-workers are acknowledged, but they seem to be the ones struggling.

No matter how hard I work, I’m finding it difficult to remain engaged because no one is acknowledging my contributions.

I’m discouraged. My group feels left out. We don’t ever receive recognition even though it is conferred on other departments. It maddens me.

So, let’s tear this issue apart and chew on it to see if we can learn anything that will support us in feeling both good about our job and achieving our career aspirations.

First, there’s no question acknowledgement generates positive work results. This fact is well-documented and researched.

  • Studies confirm appreciation leads to satisfaction, increased productivity, innovative advances, as well as improved engagement.

  • Gallup studies concur: engagement scores improve by 26 percent when employees receive recognition no matter at what level of the organization the person resides.

  • Business author, Jim Kouzes’, research reveals 97+ percentage of respondents to his survey indicated they perform better for the organization when their contribution is acknowledged.

Our corporate workforce is craving appreciation, and women understand this better than anyone. There is no question women are natural encouragers. We’re committed to making our business world a better place one individual at a time and we expect it from our managers. The cautionary lesson here is that it is only a strong incentive when the feedback is honest and sincere and specific. Anything less will read false and do more harm than good.  

But that’s the well-documented side of acknowledgment, and there’s a rarely addressed second perspective, that harms your prospects.  

Consider, do influential leaders exhibit any discouragement when they’re not receiving acknowledgment? No. You know the leader—not the manager—you admire and respect isn’t craving recognition, but on the way up, has developed the self-value-muscle necessary to make a difference.

Don’t get me wrong… if there’s acknowledgment to be had no matter where I reside on the equation, I’m an acknowledgment suck. But it is the hunger for it to complete your identity that is troublesome—not the joy of accepting it.

You see leaders are self-generative. They have to be. The higher in the organization you ascend: 

  • the less it’s about acknowledgment, and the more it is about self-assessing performance;

  • the fewer instructions and guidance you’re given, and the more self-direction is needed;

  • and the less it is about ticking the boxes, and the more it is about working comfortably in the white space of the unknown.  

Like everything in life, acknowledgment has two-sides depending on the season.  

One stands in the light—the manager recognizing and strengthening the engagement of a company’s employees. The other side stands in the shadow—the yearning for acknowledgment that weakens your internal fortitude to be the leader you desire.

Isn’t it time to check your pulse regarding acknowledgment?

Category: Mindful Monday