Recognition & Corrective Action: How Do You Measure Up?

A client once told me her supervisor had asked if she needed anything to help her accomplish her job. She said, “No, but every once in awhile it would be nice to hear thank you and receive a little recognition for doing good work.”

Her supervisor told her, “We don’t say ‘thank you’ or ‘good job’ because it demotivates staff and makes them complacent.”


I worked with some of the most hard-nosed soldiers the Canadian Army ever produced. When they gave you an “attaboy,” it was a great day.

I remember working so hard on a patrol that even the insides of my eyelids were sweating. Everything was running like clockwork. My section accomplished our mission and returned to headquarters to brief the bosses.

My Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) was in the briefing and never once broke his stony expression. The look on his face could have scared the snakes off of Medusa’s head. I had no idea what was in store for me. But after the briefing, the RSM took me aside and said, “Nice work.” It was a terrific feeling.

People want and need recognition beyond their compensation package. No one deserves to be taken for granted. Some people need their ego stroked, some need a quiet touch on the shoulder, and some need to be publicly honoured.

Just be careful not to give platitudes.

The leadership skills of the manager may be the most important factor in achieving desired results. And two of the most difficult tasks in dealing with employees are praising and reprimanding.

Giving Credit and Recognition

“If you tell a Hun he is doing a good job when he isn’t, he will not listen long and, worse, will not believe praise when it is justified.” —Attila the Hun

Even Attila the Hun had it figured out.

Human beings crave recognition.

Recognition helps to satisfy this desire and gives the person being commended inspiration and renewed enthusiasm. As Attila the Hun warns, some people hand out so much praise that it loses its significance.

Praise should be kept for the extra effort and really good performance, not just for doing what is expected.

To be an effective manager, you should know that people do better in a positive environment of acceptance and understanding.

To use praise effectively:

  • Give credit when it is due.
  • Be specific about the reason for the recognition.
  • Be sincere.
  • Ask the advice of your people. The most sincere form of praise is accepting someone’s advice and suggestions. If you can’t accept a suggestion, you should provide a diplomatic explanation why.

On top of giving recognition where it’s due, part of being a great leader means having emotional intelligence.

Here’s how to increase it.

Taking Corrective Action

On the other hand, good leadership and management often require an employee be called to account for making mistakes, or for work or personal factors related to the job.

Here’s a refresher on how to reprimand someone.


  • Time the reprimand properly. As a rule, the reprimand should be administered as soon after the offence as possible.
  • Reprimand the person in private, never in the presence of others.
  • Begin the reprimand with a question based on the facts, not an accusation.
  • Take nothing for granted. Give the employee a chance to tell the entire story.
  • Listen.
  • Give constructive advice. Leave with a feeling that no resentment has been incurred and that a positive plan of action has been developed to correct the problem.


  • Reprimand someone when you are emotionally upset.
  • Interrupt the person’s story or anticipate a particular response.
  • Get manoeuvred into an argument.
  • Nag. Once the issue is settled, forget it unless there are signs of it being repeated.
  • Compare the employee to other people. Always compare to a company standard.

The golden rule of corrective action is that the emphasis should always be on the error being corrected or the offence committed—never, never, never on the person who is being reprimanded.

How and When to Take Corrective Action

It’s easy to commend your people for good work and give recognition where it’s due. Doing so is often a great pleasure to a leader.

But to correct a fault, provide a reprimand, or terminate an employee for poor performance takes courage.

In my career, I have had to do too much of that kind of HR “dirty work.”

But I draw the courage to do so from the knowledge that the employee has been treated fairly and has been provided with every opportunity to improve.

How Do You Measure Up When It Comes to Recognition?

Read each statement or question below.

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “never” and 5 meaning “always,” mark an “X” where you think you are today on each measure, and then mark an “O” where you would like to be.

You involve people in a creative climate in which they feel free to participate.
1 —– 2 —–3 —– 4 —– 5

You understand that people don’t behave in uniform ways, and you take into consideration the personal makeup of each individual.
1 —– 2 —–3 —– 4 —– 5

You have accurate, objective ways to assess the performance of your people.
1 —– 2 —–3 —– 4 —– 5

You hold regular interviews with people to stimulate them to achieve desired results and coach, guide, train, and counsel them on a goal-oriented basis.
1 —– 2 —–3 —– 4 —– 5

You train people to take corrective action when desired results are not forthcoming.
1 —– 2 —–3 —– 4 —– 5

You take corrective action quickly when deviations from desired results and performance occur.
1 —– 2 —–3 —– 4 —– 5

You show proper appreciation to staff when they merit it.
1 —– 2 —–3 —– 4 —– 5

You do not ignore mistakes, but you don’t dwell on minor ones.
1 —– 2 —–3 —– 4 —– 5

Areas for Improvement

So, how did you measure up? Could you use a little help with giving recognition and corrective action? I can help.

From being a better leader, to building a stronger team, my one-on-one coaching helps leaders prioritize their work, streamline communications, and gain the confidence they need to become truly motivational leaders for strong teams.

Get in touch today to find out how we can work together.

Did you enjoy this article? Be sure to check these out, too:

The High Cost of Poor Leadership
10 Signs You Have a Scary Boss
People Pleasing Leaders & Soup Sandwiches – 5 Messes You Make When You Try to Make Everyone Happy

This article was originally published in 2018, and it’s been updated just for you.