Acknowledged Too Late?

Here is a poignant story/question I received from a participant in the University of Maryland University College webinar I recently led. It drives home the need for the “now” in “ack-NOW-ledgement”!


Dear Judy,

I have really enjoyed your book and it was an eye-opener for me.  I used to work for a hotel, as a revenue manager, and the reason why I left was because I did not feel appreciated enough for the amount of work that I was doing.

As a company culture we had employee appreciation each month where all the managers and supervisors would gather and the general manager would announce the manager of the month as well as the employee of the month based on an outstanding service.

In my department, I had three reservation agents and I made sure as a manager that I always acknowledged their good work. I would take them out for lunch every few months to show them know how much their hard work meant to me. If a client sent an email to thank one of the agents, I would send it to my director and my GM and post it to my agents’ bulletin board to remind them that they were appreciated.

Unfortunately, that was not the same for me. I never received a thank you for my efforts, but as soon as one of the agents made a mistake, then it would be a flow of emails to explain what had happened. At the end, I got tired and decided to work for another company. On my last day, we had a managers’ meeting and we started with a little game. Each manager had a piece of paper with all the managers’ names on it and they had to say what they thought about those managers. It was anonymous, so you wouldn’t know who said what about you.  One week after I left the company, I went to retrieve some paper and the director of HR gave me my list that they had compiled. My first thought was that it is only bad things, but I was shocked by what I read. It was a list of praises from my fellow managers and heads of departments. If I had had that list before I left, I would have thought twice before accepting another job offer. After all, they acknowledged my hard work even though they never really said anything to me directly.

Now, I wonder maybe I should have said something to my director, maybe ask to be acknowledged? But then wouldn’t that sound like I am begging for praises?


Stella’s story is a poignant and painful one — one that all managers should pay serious attention to. So many people do not know they are appreciated or valued, and actually leave their jobs because of this lack of heartfelt and authentic acknowledgment. Stella wants to know if she should have said something to her director, perhaps asking for acknowledgment. I would prefer that she not have to ask for it — that a culture of acknowledgment and appreciation be established wherever people are working. But we are not there yet. So I would suggest something a little different. Talk to your managers about the business impact of NOT acknowledging people: the Gallup organization estimates that the annual productivity loss in the U.S. from having disengaged employees is $300 billion! Disengagement results from people not knowing they are valued, and feeling they are not contributing. Managers and leaders need to be aware of this and if your people are valued, show them in many different ways. I think the exercise that her company used was excellent — we can all give this a try. Hopefully it won’t be too late. And as another way of bringing acknowledgment into a corporate culture, Stella, invite your managers to one of my free webinars that I lead twice a month. They will see both the possibility of acknowledging people freely and generously, and realize the cost of NOT acknowledging them. Thanks for sharing your powerful story with us. We all need to remember the NOW in ack-NOW-ledgment.