Platinum Rule of Recognition: It’s Not about You – It’s About Them

by Derek Irvine

Image of blue goldfish swimming opposite of school of gold goldfishRecognize This! – A key aspect of effective employee recognition is providing appreciation in the way most meaningful to the recipient.

The Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” – is a good philosophical approach to life. But it doesn’t fully apply to employee recognition.

Too often, when we think about appreciating and recognizing others for contributions, work well done, or results, we think about how we would want to be recognized. But that ignores the needs and desires of the person we are trying to honor. And isn’t that really the point of recognition? To make the recipient feel valued, noticed and appreciated, and not to toot our own horn?

That’s why I like the idea of the “platinum rule.” Sharon Sloane, CEO of Will Interactive, recently discussed the platinum rule in terms of her leadership style. In this Corner Office interview, she said:

“It means, do unto others as they would have you do unto them. It recognizes that not everybody is motivated by the same thing. You can’t necessarily fulfill everyone’s wishes, but it’s crucial to understand what makes them tick.”

If you enjoy being publicly praised and acknowledged, don’t foist that preference on someone who hates the spotlight but would enjoy being praised in a private meeting with you. If you personally believe, “Getting paid is recognition enough,” realize that many people are motivated by understanding the impact and role of their work within a bigger picture. Frequent, timely recognition outside of a paycheck accomplishes this goal more readily.

Paul White, co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation at Work, points to some of these differences:

“What we have found is that people differ in how they want to be shown appreciation and encouragement. Verbal compliments are meaningful to some. To others, words are cheap and spending time with them is important. Helping employees dig out when they are behind on a project, or handing out restaurant gift cards or sports tickets after a particularly tough week, can be effective ways to convey support.

“For older workers, a handwritten personal note is often seen as very meaningful. But for millennial males, receiving something handwritten offers little added value. The key for them is the speed in which the feedback is given, preferably within 24 hours, as opposed to a few days.”

Paying attention to generational differences in recognition preferences can also pay dividends to your organization. Fast Company reported:

“Research by Deloitte is projecting that millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025. They are supportive of—and engaged with—companies that care about more than a high-profit margin. Leaders are noticing the change. According to Deloitte, 78% of business leaders rate retention and engagement as urgent or important.”

Recognition is the most powerful lever for increasing employee engagement and creating a positivity dominated workplace culture that employees don’t want to leave. Committing to recognizing others the way they want to be recognized is a critical step in that process.

How do you prefer to be recognized? How might that differ from your peers or members of your team?

Derek Irvine

About Derek Irvine

The VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their organizations. As a renowned speaker and co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and "Winning with a Culture of Recognition," he teaches companies how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. Derek holds a B.Comm and Masters of Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.

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