5 differences between rewards and recognition

June 6, 2022

In Management & Organizational Performance

Récompense reconnaissance

When it’s time to thank a team member for their outstanding performance and commitment, so many solutions are available that we don’t know which one is most appropriate. Which one will make the employee feel appreciated and motivate them to perform even better?

One might think that giving a reward or recognition is exactly the same thing, that they have the same impact, and that they can be used in the same way. However, that’s not the case.

Continue reading this article to learn more about the difference between these two concepts that we tend to confuse.

What is a Reward?

Something (money, gift or other) given in exchange for a service, effort or result.

What is recognition?

A gesture of appreciation expressed to a person to show consideration.

Top 5 Differences Between Rewards and Recognition 

1. Conditional or unconditional

The element that best exposes the distinction between the 2 terms is this one. Rewards are based on consequences and depend on certain conditions.

Recognition is independent in nature, and is not part of a fixed outcome arising from specific actions or behaviors. It results from the willingness of a manager or peer to acknowledge a particular behavior.

2. Transactional or relational

Do this, you will get this in return.” This is a reward. It’s transactional in nature and is expected, for example, that the employee completes a project in order to receive the promised reward.

Recognition involves relationships and a personal exchange. Typically, rewards are helpful in attracting talent to your organization. Recognition is essential for retaining them.

3. Expected or spontaneous

If we perform well, we expect to receive a reward because we strongly believe we deserve it. However, recognition can take us by surprise, and happen spontaneously.

4. Rigid or flexible

Rewards are often determined by desired performance and expected returns. Recognition, on the other hand, is very free and flexible. It is felt even more strongly when it’s shared and extended to the rest of the team.

5. Impersonal or personal

Because of their tangible nature and connection with performance indicators, rewards have little of the human element. Recognition, on the other hand, has a purely human connection, as it celebrates people for who they are and what they do. However, it’s possible to make rewards personal by associating them with recognition.

Ultimately, it’s possible to recognize someone without giving a reward. However, for a more lasting impact, a reward should never be given without recognition.

In fact, don’t wait for one-off or a special occasion; adopt a spontaneous attitude and celebrate and appreciate people every day.

A reward may be expected by the recipient, but recognition creates a surprise effect that will become deeply engrained. And it’s even better when it’s also a peer who recognizes the positive behaviors of another peer.

By carefully balancing the two, you’ll be able to take the differences into account and better apply them in the moment.

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