Don’t Forget—People are People, Not Machines or Rats in a Maze

January 17, 2016 2:50 pm Published by

Recently, I had the privilege to meet and listen to Ginger Hardage, Senior Vice President of Culture and Communications for Southwest Airlines. (I happened to be the morning keynote speaker and she was the afternoon keynote speaker.) One phrase used to describe Southwest Airlines was that they were “in the customer service business and just happened to use airplanes to help people get where they want.”Southwest airlines logo

Ginger’s presentation was a refreshing reminder that truly successful enterprises understand that their primary calling is to serve the customer and, that by doing so, they will be profitable.   (As opposed to the seemingly frequent focus of “let’s figure out how to make money off of this.”)

My presentation was on “The Similarities and Differences between Appreciation and Recognition.” At the risk of oversimplifying, let me quickly summarize two main points. The intent of recognition and appreciation are largely the same—to motivate, to increase the frequency of desired behaviors and results, and to encourage team members. The primary difference is that Recognition focuses primarily on performance, while the focus of Appreciation is on the person (which may or may not include meeting goals for standards of performance). For example, we may appreciate the fact that a colleague is cheerful and positive, even though she may not be a top performer on the group.

After my presentation, a good friend and colleague, Roy Saunderson (author of Real Recognition) mentioned to me that many in the world of HR and recognition are still primarily locked into the belief that rewards (tangible gifts) are the primary motivator of performance, even though research clearly has shown that this is frequently not the case. Roy stated, “Lots people don’t really think about the difference between recognition and appreciation–they are stuck on the idea that employees wants ‘stuff’ and, as a result, companies waste millions of drat cheese maze picollars giving out things people don’t really want.”

The problem that comes from either a pure tangible reward approach or a recognition for performance approach (whether or not tangible gifts are used) is that these perspectives essentially translate people into things (a production machine) or utilize an animalistic model (think: rats and cheese).

I don’t know about you but I am a person and the people I interact with at work are people (regardless of whether they are colleagues, customers, or vendors). And we all are more than “production units” linked together.Borg pic

Forgetting that people have physical bodies, emotional reactions, goals and desires, as well as families and lives outside of work, can lead to a mechanistic “user” oriented workplace where no one wants to work. Let’s continue to fight this perspective together. Probably the best way to do so is for each of us to start by interacting with those around us in a way that treats them as a person, not just as a work unit (look them in the eye, smile, find out something about them.)

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January 17, 2016 2:50 pm

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