Judith M. Bardwick, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego, recently posted to the Huffington Post the transcript of her interview with literary critic Robert Morris on employee recognition. Judith hits on four best practices of strategic recognition: be timely, be specific, be meaningful and be personal.

“I find the most effective forms of recognition are personal and either spontaneous or very close in time to a significant accomplishment. … Whether literally or symbolically, say thanks! and in a timely fashion. … What’s necessary is exquisitely simple: in one way or another, express your gratitude meaningfully and personally for what someone has done and your real pleasure in having them around. … An easy and very effective sign of appreciation, for example, is a letter from someone’s boss — or that person’s boss — signaling appreciation for very specific accomplishments. In itself, that’s effective. It’s even more effective when, for example, flowers are sent to that person’s family thanking the family for their generous gift of that person’s time.”

I only have one quibble with Judith’s advice. Instead of choosing the gift for the person, let them make the most meaningful selection for themselves and, potentially, their family. Certainly acknowledge in your expression of recognition that you are aware of the sacrifices made on the home-front, but let the recipient choose what would be truly meaningful or appropriate. Otherwise, you risk an expensive and needless mistake.

Judith also talks about what to do if you work for a “toxic leader.” Her advice? Quit. So all of you leaders out there who justify keeping toxic managers on staff for other skills or talents they may bring, realise that you are killing the loyalty of those who report to the toxic manager and encouraging them to leave.

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