1. Hader, Richard RN, PhD, CNA, CHE, CPHQ, Editor-in-Chief

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My grandmother, who began working in her teens, retired at 82 as an administrative assistant for a large medical center. The social network she developed with her colleagues kept her active and energized long past average retirement age. As a result of her valuable contributions, she earned frequent rewards and recognition.


When I went through her possessions after she died, I noticed she'd kept only those mementos most important to her. Letters and thank-you cards from supervisors were among her most valued keepsakes. As I read through them, some dating back decades, I wondered if these supervisors knew the tremendous impact their sentiments made on her.


No stone unturned

At first glance, you may find the basic leadership principle of staff recognition simple. After all, how difficult is it to write a thank-you note, congratulate a staff member at a public meeting, or mention him or her in a newsletter? While all of these actions may seem appropriate, they might be the wrong approach, depending on the individual or group you're recognizing.


Case in point: A manager recently attempted to recognize her staff after a difficult JCAHO survey. Proud of their accomplishments, she invited more than 100 staff members to her home for a celebration. To her dismay, only four people attended. When she later discussed the situation with her staff members, they said they appreciated her efforts, but were too busy to add another event to their overflowing schedules. The manager realized she needed to better understand her staff and implement a more effective recognition approach.


Another golden rule: Appropriately and accurately offer staff reward and recognition. Unfortunately, I learned this tenet the hard way. When our medical center achieved Magnet accreditation, administrators hosted an employee reception. I purchased special gifts for the individuals most instrumental to the process. When I presented my tokens of appreciation, I failed to recognize one of the award's champions. My oversight was devastating to her and an unforgettable lesson for me.


Just ask

While everyone likes recognition, we each have a preference for the manner in which it's conducted. The best way to determine how your staff members want to be recognized is to ask them. You can easily incorporate this into the performance evaluation process. As you're discussing the previous year's accomplishments and setting new goals for staff members, address how they'd like to be recognized for their departmental contributions. Some employees prefer one-on-one recognition while others appreciate a public announcement. Now, you can also invite innovative staff members to apply for Nursing Management 's Visionary Leader 2004 award. Look for details in next month's issue. And remember, it's all in the way you say "thanks."