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Andrew Greenwood


Director of Sales and Product

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We all need to feel included – and recognition can help


Human beings are social creatures. To survive and thrive we need other people. Feeling connected matters. Being left out hurts. That’s as true in the workplace as it is in our personal lives.

It’s a need that’s inbuilt into our physiology and relates to the way the neurotransmitter dopamine works in our brains. The simple explanation ( for me more than anyone ) is as follows. When you feel a positive sense of connection, an emotional reaction takes place and dopamine’s released. It creates a sense of pleasure. But dopamine levels drop quickly. So it’s likely you’ll be motivated to repeat that behaviour again in order to get the next hit – fuelling a spiral of positive social behaviour towards one another.

But what happens in a situation when you feel excluded from something? Perhaps you find out about a get together arranged by a few of your friends – and you haven’t been asked to go. Or maybe a conversation breaks up just as you walk over to join it. Perhaps, in the workplace setting, there’s a high profile meeting which several of your colleagues have been invited to but not you. How would you feel?

Research suggests exclusion creates a sense of social pain which fires up exactly the same area of the brain that experiences physical pain. Feeling left out hurts – literally.

The sense of wellbeing that comes from feeling connected has big implications in organisations. And an important way to create and maintain this sense of connection and belonging, and reduce a sense of exclusion, is via sharing recognition.

What role can recognition play?

The positive feedback and appreciation that comes from feeling recognised creates feelings of pride, pleasure and increased feelings of self-esteem, releasing dopamine every time.

But don’t forget about dopamine’s short-lived effect. So to sustain the impact, it needs to be regular and ongoing recognition, not just an occasional thank you. ‘Old school’ recognition used to be top down only. Remembering to say thanks would, by some managers, feel like another job on the list that may or may not happen depending on what else they had to do.

But now the way we communicate inside and outside work has evolved. We’ve gone social. And that’s impacted on today’s approaches to recognition, where employees have the ability to recognise, acknowledge and show appreciation to each other no matter what their position in the hierarchy is. Every employee can be part of the process and that means the sense of connection is sustained far more effectively.

The regular positive communication resulting from recognition helps develop trust and strong relationships. It increases a sense of loyalty too. Which is great news for organisations because if you feel a sense of attachment to your colleagues, you’ll probably feel a lot more inclined to stay with your company too.

Because recognition’s being given by people who are in a position to know what you’re doing day to day ( your peers ) it means high-quality recognition which is truly significant. It doesn’t feel like empty or superficial words. It’s meaningful and that enhances a sense of authenticity. And if there’s one thing strong employee relationships and a culture of inclusiveness thrives upon, it is authentic feedback.

Author Profile Picture
Andrew Greenwood

Director of Sales and Product

Read more from Andrew Greenwood

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