Do you acknowledge people for “just” doing their jobs?

Do you acknowledge people for “just” doing their jobs?

Do you think you should acknowledge people for just doing their jobs; for just doing what they’re supposed to?

Many people would say, “No, of course not!  They’re doing the absolute minimum required and it’s only service or results over and above the norm that should be acknowledged or rewarded.”

If you think this way, please reconsider.  Here’s why:

Many people don’t feel that they make a difference

First, because many people don’t feel they make a difference, they don’t feel that what they do matters.

Consequently, they go through the motions at work in order to get a paycheck.  They do the minimum to keep their job, and financial security, and they don’t connect what they do with a valuable service, or in getting something important done.  Like a mouse pushing a lever to get food.

I witnessed this the other day while watching a mobile-phone customer-service rep treat a customer with disdain.  The customer clearly was a bother to her, and the idea that her knowledge and willingness to help could make a difference for her customer, and employer seemed alien to her.

No one has to help you – really

Second, very few people really have to do what they do.  As Joe Clark – played by Morgan Freeman in the movie Lean on Me – said while locked up in the town jail, “The only thing I have to do is stay black and die!”

We all have our responsibilities, duties, commitments and jobs and many of us don’t live up to them.  We often fail to meet our own expectations, and obligations but we don’t appreciate how hard it may be for others to live up to theirs.

Yet our expectations doesn’t obligate anyone to do anything.  We forget that everyone has a choice and can choose not to do what we expect, and they often don’t.

Everyone serving or interacting with you is ultimately choosing to do so, and sometimes it’s a hard choice to make especially if their job is boring or involves difficult people.

No one has to help you; not the fireman, policeman, lawyer, plumber or photographer at the licensing office.  Every act of service is an act of choice, even when it’s someone’s job.

Fact is, many people don’t realize that they have a choice and do their work begrudgingly.  Then there are those who do get that doing their job well is a choice, and they make that choice … willingly.  They’re easy to spot; they remain competent at their jobs despite constant change and always serve with a smile.

Not acknowledging them is a mistake, and don’t be surprised when they leave.

Two HUGE benefits of acknowledging people for “just” doing their jobs

In short, acknowledging people for “just” doing their jobs has two great benefits:

  1. They are reminded, or maybe get to see for the first time that their work does matter, that the results of their actions are helping someone else take care of a problem, save time/energy/money, fulfil obligations, feel better, feel safe, become more knowledgeable etc.
  2. They are reminded that they have a choice in what they do and that we appreciate that they choose to be of service.
president bush visiting the troops photo
Photo by adietler

Every time you see a President, or Prime Minister visiting their troops overseas, it is this acknowledgment theme that is being practiced.  Acknowledging people for doing their jobs lets them know that what they do makes a difference in our lives and we appreciate it.

People essentially want to feel like their work is important and appreciated, and giving people acknowledgments for doing their jobs is your best bet at having a highly motivated staff that will stay with you for the long run, instead of going somewhere else where the pay is slightly better, or where they know they will have the appreciation they craved.

What you can do

Take on a practice of acknowledging your staff, colleagues or teammates for doing their jobs, for coming to work everyday, for showing up.  They make a difference.  Let them know it, and keep reminding them of it.  You’ve got nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain.

Any thoughts? Contributions/acknowledgments welcome.