When Employees give more recognition than Managers

Recent research shows that Managers are not as involved as they should be. Is it good or bad when Employees give more recognition than managers?
When Employees give more recognition than Managers
Sharne McDonald

We all know that recognition makes your company culture strong, but what happens when it’s only coming from the employees themselves?

Recent research shows that, overall, employees feel they are giving more recognition than managers. But is it a good or bad thing?

Culture at Work 2019

The Good

It’s important for employees to build strong bonds in the trenches. This doesn’t mean managers are uninvolved, but rather that the team learns to work together, trust each other and feel they have the liberty to share feedback and recognition openly.

This camaraderie keeps the team motivated and moving together, steered in the right direction by the company’s goals and nudges from management.

The Bad

If employees are not getting acknowledgement from their managers (even in the form of a simple ‘Thank you’ or ‘Good job’), they’re probably not receiving any rewards or incentives from the company either. Any game developer knows that ongoing rewards is the key to continued participation — we’re wired to stay motivated when we see the fruits of our labour.

Learn more about gamification 👉

Additionally, an uninvolved management could lead to an ‘us vs them’ attitude in the workplace — murmurings, a feeling of dissatisfaction with their achievements and overall suspicion will start to fester as the gap between managers and employees grow wider. It’s like that long-time friend of yours who started hanging with a different crowd and now you can’t even hold a conversation anymore 🙄

The Ugly

If no recognition is coming from the proverbial ‘Top Down’, employees may start to feel that management does not appreciate them. Yes, the very same management who saw their potential, hired them and pays their monthly salary.

Danger zone checklist for manager-employee relationships

🔲 The managers have their own, separate offices.

🔲 The employees hang out together after work without the managers.

🔲 At a work party, employees and managers don’t mingle.

🔲 The managers don’t know the names of everyone in their team, or are unaware of the fact that someone has left/joined the team.

🔲 Team-building exercises are awkward and nobody wants to participate.

🔲 When asked to give feedback on the company/management team, the room falls silent.

🔲 In a meeting, managers tend to talk a lot while employees look bored or chat under their breath.

If your company ticks any of the above boxes, you need to seriously relook at your company structure and how management relates to their co-workers — yes, that’s right, co-workers — because you’re all in this together, to grow the company and to grow as people.

Next steps

How to shape up the company culture and get managers back on the team:

✅ Run a pulse survey to solicit feedback and find employee pain points.
It may be best to run this anonymously via a third party at first, until trust & psychological safety has been restored.
Our Happy at Work survey could help — check it out >

✅ Address the issues raised in your survey results.
One of the biggest criticisms we hear from client employees about their management, is that they don’t follow through, so there’s no point in giving them feedback 😱 All we can say is, don’t be that boss. Here’s another pro tip: don’t assume you have the answers — ask the employees how they would want you to solve the issues.

✅ Get managers to give more recognition.
First of all, managers need to understand why it’s important for them to acknowledge and appreciate great work in their teams publicly (there’s lots of research on how recognition is tied to ROI). A simple way to do this is to get all the managers to set a reminder on their calendars to give recognition once or twice a week.

✅ Start measuring culture.
The only way to know if your culture is improving, is to start measuring it. There are lots of tools out there to help keep a pulse on your culture, and Hi5 is a great way to do this.

✅ Go on a team retreat and do some fun stuff together.
Just like a family, your company needs some R&R from time to time. This is easier for smaller teams, but it’s important to find some way for managers and employees to mingle in a neutral environment. We have a team lunch 🥪 once a month and go away together 🏖️ twice a year.

In summary, it’s important to be aware of the nuances of your company’s culture: is more recognition from employees than managers a sign that there’s a power gap, or simply the output of a healthy, productive workforce? Keep our danger zone checklist in the back of your mind and watch for signs of ‘managerisms’ that could damage the open, engaged culture you’d like to cultivate in your company.

Looking for a simple way to give employees' recognition? Try Hi5 for free >