The linguistic approach to employee recognition

March 3, 2014

In Management & Organizational Performance

linguistic approach to employee recognition

Recognition at work is set up in multiple ways, as payout, promotion, reward, or through symbolic language.

The linguistic approach to recognition implemented at various levels seems to have impacts and consequences, and businesses are only now starting to measure its strength. It is said to be diverse and manifold, though it’s first and foremost recognition:

  • The individual (rather than the employee) for what is most personal and intimate to them.
  • Results, quantifiable, observable of the work accomplished by an employee or a group.
  • Effort, regardless of the results, which may have diminished due to a global economic situation or a lesser independent performance by an employee or a group that has made remarkable efforts.
  • Recognize skills, an individual’s ethical values, their relationship management, (dimensions developed by Jean-Pierre Brun, Université Laval).

By considering each one of these recognition approaches, you will be driven to support individuals, employees, working groups, and the entire business. In addition to giving meaning to the company’s efforts and mission, these approaches will impact positively the identity of an individual, of a group, of the business, as well as an individual’s health, well being and personal development.


Diverse and manifold, that’s the language of recognition; how to demonstrate the different types of recognition through the act of speaking:

  • To recognize an individual, it’s to say hello in the morning, to inform them of decisions or better yet, to invite them to participate in decision-making processes.
  • To recognize results, it’s to inform an individual of the impact of their accomplishments; ideally one should make an event out of it (a happy hour, a moment to relax at the end of the day where an individual or a group can be celebrated).
  • To recognize effort, it’s to acknowledge someone verbally, to let them know that they have proven their ability of having more responsibilities.
  • To recognize skills, it’s to value qualities, acknowledge strengths, notice the details and thereby allow an individual to repatriate a know-how that they can identify with.

The linguistic approach to recognition drives an increased performance simply because individuals feel involved in the company’s mission. It’s all about the value built by the leaders for their employees, in a bidirectional manner, a value that must become common to all employees and which will enable staff members to recognize themselves amongst each other.


This is why Altrum implemented the daily Standup Meeting during which, employees are invited to recognize another employee or a person from their private circle, as well as share their priority for the day. This ritual aims at solidifying the main values of our business, enables employees to connect with one another, to thank their peers, to highlight accomplishments or skills as well as to inform other team members of the main tasks that need to be accomplished. When employees are informed, they are connected to the overall mission and are able to naturally organize and plan among themselves.

Recognizing someone, means allowing them to become autonomous without loosing control. The English language is an inspiring example here as it is efficient and direct. Let’s look at this small phrase spoken by an employee who was proposing a solution or a change: “Do it”! In English, this phrase is very short and conveys an expression of trust. In French on the other hand, « fais-le! » is more or less suggestive of giving an order. Recognition is to value an individual, a task, an innovation. Encouragement is allowing an individual to be innovative or to introduce a change, while you’re listening and supporting them by saying, “Yes go for it”, or by verbally stating that their idea is good and that they can or must try it. The strength of this maneuver resides in the fact that the individual will always share his/her actions and thus get the upper hand over rigid management control and supervision, without necessarily loosing control. To free speech translates into an increased spread of information.


We now know that recognition through spoken language is significantly constructive; it can occur at the individual or at the collective level, it must be done daily and promptly, it must be expressed privately and publicly. Encouragement and verbal praise plays a crucial role: it is a keystone that maintains the structure, enables information to spread, it helps preserve the well being of the employees and of the business. Social networks and company intranet can also be used to publicly communicate the various types of recognition; they offer the possibility of multiplying praise made by a colleague at the coffee machine, or an employee from a nearby department that has read the information.

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