Four ways to overcome recognition pushback

February 27, 2019
Employee Engagement

When speaking at an event this week on the topic of recognition, I was asked a question I’ve heard time and time again – “How do I handle the pushback I receive from my leaders and my employees, convincing them to engage with my recognition program?”

I answered the question, but when I finished, thought to myself that since it’s such a common question I should really turn it into a blog. So here are four ways ways that I’ve handled the pushback and challenges I’ve come across over the years:

1. Make sure your program is fit for purpose

The first thing to do is to make sure that your recognition program is ‘fit for purpose’. Take a step back and honestly look at your recognition program, asking yourself questions such as the following:

If you can’t answer ‘yes’ to these questions, then before you do anything else, fix your program!

2. Understand the root of the pushback

This is where you need to think like a detective, getting to the root cause, and uncovering what’s really behind their pushback. I’ve found that often the pushback is because they either don’t understand or don’t feel comfortable with recognition, so pushing back is an easier response or possibly a defence mechanism.

When discussing recognition recently with managers at a manager conference, this is exactly the reaction I had from one of the managers in the audience. He pulled me aside and said that he just didn’t ‘get’ recognition, he couldn’t see the value and thought that if anything it made the receiver feel uncomfortable.

As I delved a bit deeper, I found out that in fact he was the one who didn’t feel comfortable receiving recognition, so he was projecting this reaction on others. But by having an honest conversation with him about this, he was able understand that the majority of people do crave recognition and are not in the least bit uncomfortable with it. He said he’d give it a go!

3. Find yourself some allies

If you want your recognition program to win, you need to face the challenge head on. And the best way to do this is with others by your side. By bringing onboard allies, so people who are as committed to recognition as you, together you’ll be able to join forces to overcome the challenges one by one.

I’ve found this to be extremely helpful in situations when I’ve had to overcome the pushback from a senior leader. By bringing onboard allies, especially those that the leader respects, it changes it from being something HR is trying to push on the business to something the business believes in and supports.

4. Make sure it’s understood

We often assume that our workforce is going to automatically understand our recognition program. But what I’ve found is that no matter how straightforward we believe we design the program, it is never straightforward to our employees.

Why? Well for many, recognition just isn’t natural. They don’t automatically think to themselves, “today I’m going to recognize someone”. Recognition is something that needs to be understood, learned and practiced to become a regular habit. Accept this, do something about it, and I promise you, things will change!

I hope these suggestions help you as you face pushback at your company. And if I haven’t listed the challenge you face, then please don’t hesitate to contact me. I love a good challenge, and am happy to brainstorm with you on how to best overcome it.

About Debra

I’m an author, speaker and consultant (or what I like to call ‘pay it forward’ specialist) with over 20 years experience as a global HR leader, working for companies such as Gap Inc., Quintiles, Merlin Entertainment and Reward Gateway.

I’ve published two books, Build it: A Rebel Playbook for Employee Engagement and Effective HR Communication: A Framework for Communicating HR Programs with Impact.

Feel free to add comments and questions, and of course, feel free to share on any social network you fancy. Thank you!

© 2018 Debra Corey.

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