The Break Room: Don’t Write Off the Importance of Recognition

The Break Room: Don’t Write Off the Importance of Recognition

Why appreciation is sometimes the best award of all.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: In addition to writing about occupational health and safety for EHS Today, I also write fiction during my off-work hours. I’ve experienced some success in recent years, including publishing short fiction in various literary journals and earning recognition in several contests and fellowships. Last but not least, my debut short story collection, Living Arrangements, was recently published by BkMk Press at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Don’t worry, this column isn’t going to be one long plug for my book. I’m bringing up my writing because it leads me to a topic that applies to employers and safety professionals, as well: recognition.

In October, I received a writing grant awarded annually to an emerging writer with ties to the state of Ohio. My husband and I drove to Columbus, Ohio, to attend the award reception and ceremony, which also honored several Ohio authors for their prize-winning books. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the evening other than the chance to mingle with some impressive writers, meet the wonderful people behind the organization that awarded my grant, participate in a panel discussion, accept my grant and, yes, indulge in some celebratory champagne.

The evening, as it turns out, far surpassed my expectations. I felt embraced as a new voice in Ohio’s literary community. I met gracious and kind authors and readers. I bought a stack of books and had them signed by their authors. I even fielded some questions about writing from a teenage girl who also aspired to become a writer.

But most of all, I felt recognized and appreciated – not only for my writing, but for all the hard work I’d put into the novel-in-progress that won me the grant in the first place. And I have to admit, that feeling of appreciation and recognition was pretty darn good.

This must be the season for awards and recognition: In this issue, we revealed the winner of the 2011 Future Leaders in EHS scholarship. And on Oct. 31, EHS Today honored its 12 America’s Safest Companies (ASC) at an award reception in Philadelphia.

At the ASC reception, I was on the other side of the honors. I had helped select these companies from a pack of well-qualified applicants as shining stars of safety. These companies work extremely hard to maintain their record of excellence in all matters related to EHS. Each and every last one of them should have been very proud indeed to stand up and receive their award that night in Philadelphia.

Judging by the tone of the evening and the comments from some of the winners, I think it’s safe to say that the America’s Safest Companies representatives truly did feeling appreciated and respected as champions of safety. And that makes me happier than any award banquet ever could on its own.

But you don’t need an elaborate reception, keynote speakers, an open bar or trophies to recognize your employees (though those things are, admittedly, nice). You only need to say the words: Thank you for all your hard work. Or: You’re doing a great job. Or simply: We notice your work and we appreciate you.

Recognizing a worker for his or her efforts is free. It doesn’t even take much time. But the impact it can have on that worker – and his or her morale, productivity and attitude – can go far beyond the reach of your words.

So take a look around at the employees who are going above and beyond, who always put safety first and who contribute their talents to your organization, and take a moment to thank them. Trust me, they’ll appreciate it.

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