The first item on the list of the reasons we work is there because it is the greatest natural motivator known, not just for management’s ends, but for employee fulfillment as well. It is true for all of us and even for lower forms of life. It can take many forms, but recognition is an expression of appreciation and many times with sincere good wishes for the accomplishments of another.
“Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” This is a form of recognition. Just saying someone’s name can pick up his or her spirits just because you have singled them out.
A child having realized a success in a play or in a sporting event will likely hear “Good job.” Athletes will often get a pat on the back when achieving a success from the coach or from teammates. They may offer a “high five.” Our pets will get a scratch, affection, and maybe a treat when doing a trick or obeying when asked. Even a killer whale will get treats and affection when doing its tricks.
In business, recognition is common and can include things like a prime parking place for employee of the month, or prizes like golf clubs or a trip to Hawaii.
There are bonuses or other forms of incentive or merit compensation, like time off with pay. There are companies where a significant amount of normal income is derived from incentive compensation, recognition for having achieved certain objectives.
Recognition is a feel-good thing for all of us, whether we are giving it or receiving it. It helps to cement team spirit, it can help to take a load off, and it will lift the spirits when other things cannot. Many times just words or a touch are enough to make a difference. Other times, more serious recognition makes sense, particularly when an effort and the following success go on for some period of time.
Organized labor will not negotiate recognition in the form of merit compensation for their members in labor agreements, since it violates their basic tenet of “equal pay for equal work.” In addition, their philosophy implicitly discourages recognition in any form as it is perceived as “management’s prejudices and preferences” and it is apparently seen as lowering the rest instead of raising the ones being recognized.
Many of “the reasons we work” listed have to do with personal achievement. When good things happen, people notice and natural recognition occurs. It is unnatural to suppress the inner or outer celebrations when positive things happen, and a significant, maybe unconscious, letdown occurs when nothing is said or done. This can be de-motivating.
In any ongoing effort to achieve goals, whether self-imposed or those assigned by others, frequent small achievements or victories manifested in recognition are an important feedback system. They provide vital encouragement to sustain the effort to the final success. Without the feedback, we are virtually adrift in unknown waters. Recognition is that feedback that provides encouragement and the incentive and direction for further action. This is particularly true for young people who inevitably face unfamiliar territory and are experiencing life’s adventures for the first time. It is a way of subconsciously measuring one’s own efforts and progress against the original objective and society’s norms.
The following is an excerpt from the Internet home page of an international union as it entered contract negotiations with major automakers.
“To that end, we set forth the following program:
Opposing new “two-tier” arrangements and seeking to eliminate those that currently exist. Two-tier wage systems violate the principle of equal pay for equal work, pit senior workers against new hires, have a corrosive effect on worker morale, damage productivity and create second class citizens in the workplace. For all of these reasons they must be strongly resisted.
Eliminating wage progression schedules that require unreasonably long periods to reach the top rate for the job and thereby create, in effect a two-tier system.
Replacing merit rating and similar wage progression systems with full automatic wage progression to the top rate for the job. The pay of our members should not be subject to management’s prejudices or personal preferences. Most of these “systems” exist in new bargaining units which maintained such wage payment plans before their workers joined our union.”
The principle of “equal pay for equal work” as described in this doctrine can easily be interpreted to mean that all must gravitate to the lowest common denominator so that no one can be seen as a second class citizen.
“Management’s prejudices or personal preferences” is code for recognition of contribution beyond the minimums that have been specifically negotiated. It is not unusual for peer pressure in a closed organized labor environment to chastise peers as suck-ups for any contribution beyond that required. Of course, this further degrades spirit and effectiveness. The chastisers apparently become second class citizens when one of their peers makes such a contribution. It becomes a poisoned environment.
If we accept that Yankee ingenuity and the natural reward of the “reasons we work” are reasonable concepts, then consider how an environment containing the above philosophy contrasts with it. It runs exactly counter to the “no rules” environment, totally repressive to free thought and the energy for the creation and implementation of new ideas. It places huge obstacles in the way of the realization of the rewards of W3. The human element, its free thought (imagination) and energy (passion) and Yankee ingenuity are impotent in that setting. Big time TGIF.
In the event of another national emergency such as WWII, what will be the source of imagination and energy in manufacturing to perform the required miracles? What do you think about other countries and cultures, not only in terms of national security, but also as everyday competitors over the long haul? In today’s global economy, very aggressive and ingenious competitors come from all points of the compass. They seriously threaten job security for those not willing to take them on - on their terms - if necessary.
Michael Jordan is recognized around the world for his athletic ability, as he should be, as well as for his personal reputation. Do you suppose that the least well-known player on the same basketball team felt like a second class citizen because of it? What about the mission commander on a NASA space mission who gets all the recognition through his own organization and through the media? Do you think that all the others involved, including crew and support people, feel like second class citizens?
Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence people (Pocket Books, 1998), 79.
UAW Bargaining ’99 Economic issues (UAW Online Publications)