I believe that recognition is truly a fundamental human need, that everyone wants to feel valued and know that they are being noticed and not overlooked or ignored. As parents, we know the importance of providing positive reinforcement and encouragement. And I think that, in every aspect, and every relationship, it matters that we pay attention and that we never take each other for granted.
Certainly this applies in the workplace as well. We all know the value of congratulating our staff or colleagues for a job well done and we know how we feel when someone gives us that kind of pat on the back. Feeling not just that something has been accomplished but that it has also been noticed matters to each of us and validates the contributions that we make.
This week I had the privilege of being involved in two very different recognition events that brought this home to me. As an organization, we hold an annual service awards celebration and we invite employees, and guests, to enjoy an elegant dinner and dancing. We call each person up, give them a gift and thank them for their service in a very public way. For many of us, this might be a “nice” event but for many of our staff it really falls under the heading of a “big deal.” They bring their families, they are dressed to the nines and they are beaming as we salute both their years of service and, more importantly, the care and compassion they bring to our older adults every day. As people come up to receive their awards, they do it with great pride and the photos from the event reflect a room full of people who feel truly appreciated.
The second opportunity to be a part of meaningful recognition happened just yesterday. We have a “university” program in our long term care community and our resident students take part in an academic year of lectures and programs on a wide variety of topics. At the end of the year we hold a graduation ceremony complete with caps and gowns. We had a keynote speech, a speech by the valedictorian and each “graduate” received a diploma. All the faces were filled with pride, both those of the residents and the family members in attendance. And at the end of the ceremony, as tradition dictates, our graduates threw their mortarboards freely into the air.
Neither of these events is earth-shattering, national in scope or extraordinary. Still they were meaningful and powerful to everyone who took part—both those being recognized and those of us who were fortunate enough to provide the recognition. It doesn’t take much to thank someone, to show appreciation, to compliment. Yet we often find it easier to criticize than to praise.
What if each of us made the effort to recognize the little things and the big ones? What if we did that consistently every day? I think it would not only make the world around us a little brighter, I think it would brighten our lives as well.