Public Vs. Private Recognition—Which One Is Better For Your Employees?

It is always nice to be recognized for your work. While your paycheck is a form of recognition, knowing that you are actually appreciated can also be helpful. There are two main types of recognition, public and private. However, is public or private recognition better?

The nature of the recognition

A lot depends upon the nature of the recognition. If it is just letting employees know that you appreciate them and their work, then a private “thank you” is all needed. If, however, the purpose of the recognition is to encourage other employees to do better, then a form of public recognition is what will be needed. A lot depends upon the reason for giving an employee recognition and the employee himself. Public recognition would do little good if you just embarrass the employee.

Benefits of private recognition

The main advantage of private recognition is that it lets the employee know that they are appreciated without the possibility of embarrassment with shy employees. It is an effective way to let employees know their hard work is appreciated. This can do wonders for an employee’s morale by letting you know that they are appreciated. Yes, they get a paycheck, but that would be expected even from a boss that barely tolerates them. Simply saying “thank you” shows that you see them as more than just someone you are paying to do a job.

Disadvantages of private recognition

The main disadvantage of private recognition is that it only motivates one employee. If you want to motivate other employees, then private recognition is not the way to go. Also, the employee may not take private recognition as being sincere. If the boss thanks you every Friday when giving out paychecks, it will lose any benefit after a while because it seems insincere. One thing that is worse than no recognition is recognition that the employee does not think is sincere. The danger of private recognition is that you can overdo it.

Benefits of public recognition

Public recognition has the advantage of supplying a source of motivation for multiple employees to do a better job. Seeing that you will get rewarded for doing a better job will encourage most employees to work harder. This is particularly true of those who enjoy being in the limelight; this is the type of employee that would benefit the most from public recognition. It also helps the employee to know that they are appreciated by their employer to the extent that they will tell others how much they appreciate them. It can also help motivate others to do better and try to unseat the champion.

Disadvantages of public recognition

The main disadvantage of public recognition is the risk of placing it on the wrong employee. There are two types of employees that would not benefit from public recognition. An employee who is shy may become embarrassed by the attention, reducing effort to avoid it. Then there is the snob, for whom the attention just makes him think he is the best and does not need to try to do better. In both cases, publicly recognizing such employees can do more harm than good, even if they are indeed the best.

So which is actually for employees

Ultimately, which one is best depends upon the situation and the employees. If you want to motivate employees to do better by giving out employee of the month plaques, then do not necessarily make the recipient the employee that has done the best job. If the employee who actually has done the best job is too shy or likely to be snobbish about it, then they should be passed over for public recognition in favor of private recognition. The answer to whether private or public recognition is best depends upon the employees.

This question may not have a decisive answer, but it is also a complex question. Its answer is going to depend upon the situation. You need to give the right type of recognition that will benefit each employee rather than doing more harm than good. Know your employees, and you will tend to get the right answer.

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