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Money Versus Recognition: Why Employees Leave

Updated on January 23, 2013

The fourth of a twelve-part series based the Gallup Q12

The Gallup Q12 addresses twelve key expectations in the workplace. What happens when an employee is not just disengaged but actively disengaged? According to Gallup, "Actively Disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged co-workers accomplish.” (1)

This hub addresses Gallup Q12 Question 4: In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work? (2)

In the beginning of Author, Roger DeFoe’s career, he received regular appreciation. As the years progressed, however, he discovered that gratefulness for a job well done was not something that was practiced by many of his bosses. When he asked one manager to put a compliment to an associate in writing, he received the reply, ‘What the hell, we paid them didn't we?’” (3)

Unfortunately, there are many corporate leaders who feel the same way as DeFoe’s manager. Here’s the scoop: if you want your staff to do exactly what you pay them to do (or less), consider their paycheck the only thanks they deserve. Here’s what you’ll get in return: employees will come to work as required, check their Facebook accounts and talk to their friends on the phone during the day, all while doing the minimal amount of work they need to get by without getting fired.

If, on the other hand, you want your team members to be enthusiastic about and engaged in what they are doing, and build value many times more than their earnings, try a little appreciation. It goes a long way.

A USA Today article talked about how likely employees are to start looking for a new job once the economy improves, and a simple strategy to keep from losing your valued employees. “Resignations could fall if bosses take on low-cost actions such as offering career advancement advice and thanking deserving workers, says Kevin Sheridan, chief engagement officer at consultant HR Solutions.

“Employees ‘want to know that they're reporting to someone who cares about them as a person and cares about their engagement level,’ he says” (4)

What can you do to create a culture of appreciation in your organization?

1. Go beyond the paycheck and realize that although employee loyalty and satisfaction begins with adequate pay for the job, it continues long-term with regular, steady acknowledgement. If you truly believe that your employees’ paychecks are the only things they need, try this experiment. For the next 30 days, look for reasons to express gratitude to your staff both verbally and in writing. Keep track of the reactions received. If you don't see a significant improvement in the level of positivity in your office, you can stop the practice. However, you'll never know the effect that you can have unless you take the first step.

2. Impromptu thanks. Don’t make appreciation a “program.” Don't put together a “quota” for your managers to make sure they thank employees “X” number of times each month. Give praise when warranted - but make sure management keeps a watchful eye for positive results and acknowledges them immediately when they happen..

3. Establish a discretionary recognition fund. Give each department a small amount of money that can be used for rewards. If managers want to buy a $10 or $25 gift card to reward deserving employees for outstanding service, let them. Do have them keep a log of the reward given and the reasons why. This is not only good for accounting purposes; it shows upper management the good things that employees are doing for the organization.

Start small with your recognition programs. As you begin to experience the benefits of greater employee productivity and stronger profits, add additional funds. Chances are your benefits will increase exponentially as your program investment grows.

As you can see from the phrasing of this question, it's essential to acknowledge your staff at least one time a week. With honest, sincere, and immediate recognition you will begin to see positive results from the most productive employees down to the most difficult. Guaranteed.


(1) Chicago: Gallup Q12, (accessed January 20, 2013).





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    • Grategy profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa Ryan 

      5 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Very good points. There needs to be a balance, and your employer was the one that ultimately lost by losing you. Thanks for your post.

    • glassvisage profile image


      5 years ago from Northern California

      Good Hub with good points. For me both are important. I recently left a job where I wasn't making that much, but I enjoyed the job and stayed much longer than most in my position do. However, over time I started looking for another position where I could broaden my experience. Overall I was happy with my job because I would be recognized for the most part. However, the last straw for me that encouraged me to leave was when I discovered that I was making the same as the most junior member of our staff who was hired much later than me, had less education, and didn't work as many hours. There should be a balance - you shouldn't have people who are in it just for the money, but it's good to use the paycheck to help reward your best workers.


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