The Power of Authenticity in Recognition

Do you ever worry about employee recognition seeming ‘fake’ or inauthentic? Here’s how you can harness the power of authenticity when recognizing others at work.

Recognition can serve as a turbocharged engine to propel your organization forward, but only if it comes from a place of authenticity. We spoke with Andrew Bishop, our General Manger at RecogNation, who has a true affinity for the recognition industry. From our conversation came many insights for authentically recognizing others in the workplace! 


A Strong Foundation 

For recognition to be authentic and effective, you must first make sure your organization hits these checkpoints: 

Physical, emotional, and financial safety 

First and foremost, your employees should feel safe – both physically and emotionally. Make sure the workspace is safe, clean, and set up for people to work productively. Feeling emotionally safe is just as important as physical safety. No one should go into work with a fear of being yelled at or emotionally put down.  

Unsurprisingly, employees need money to live. Employees should not only make enough money to survive, but they should also earn a competitive salary for their position and field. Recognition cannot be used as a disguise for grossly underpaying employees. 

If your company falls short in any of these areas, recognition may come off as inauthentic or condescending.  


How To Authentically Recognize Others 

Now that we have a solid foundation, these are our 7 tips for recognizing others in an authentic way! 

1. Check your motive  

Ask yourself if you are being genuine in your recognition and answer truthfully. If you find yourself only recognizing someone for selfish reasons, then it’s simply not worth it! People are perceptive and will likely pick up on any self-serving intentions.  

2. Be specific 

Recognition is a positive form of feedback. We know that negative feedback needs to be specific to let others know what needs to change or “what not to do.” Similarly, positive feedback needs to be specific to let others know when to “keep it up!” Pointing out a specific moment or accomplishment also implies that you genuinely see that person and pay attention to their efforts.  

3. Understand preferences 

Find out how your employees prefer to receive recognition on day one. Include a simple “Tell Us About You” survey in the onboarding process. Consider adding questions such as: 

  • Do you prefer to be recognized publicly or privately? 
  • What is your favorite snack? 
  • What are some of your hobbies? 

Knowing preferences from the start helps you start recognition off on the right foot with each employee! 

4. Mix it up 

Even while keeping preferences in mind, you should avoid constantly using the same form of recognition. Repeating the same practice over and over seems less authentic and more like a robotic routine. Sprinkling in 1:1 recognition for those that prefer it publicly can add more meaning. Don’t be afraid to put the shy people in the spotlight occasionally, especially for the big stuff.  

Online recognition programs are certainly effective, but don’t forget to show appreciation face to face along the way!  

5. Build personal connection 

Work should not be transactional and emotionless. Building personal connections in the workplace fosters a much-needed sense of belonging. Showing a genuine interest in getting to know someone on a personal level will lead to more natural and authentic recognition.  

6. Add unique touches  

Remember that “Tell Us About You” survey? That is a great place to start when you are looking for ways to personalize recognition. For example, if an employee says Doritos are their favorite snack, leave a bag of Doritos on their desk with a personal thank you note. Adding unique touches to recognition moments becomes even easier as personal connections are built, too! 

7. Be yourself  

Great news: you don’t have to be different from who you are outside of work! Leverage your strengths in the workplace (i.e. if you are a naturally affirming person outside of work, use those skills to affirm others at work.) Being yourself is the best way to be authentic! 


All in all, recognition alone is not a magic bullet. Your organization needs a strong foundation and healthy work culture first. Then you can follow the 7 tactics for authentically recognizing others. The result? Your recognition will be more powerful and resonate greater with your employees!