Company Culture

5 Ways Appreciation Can Backfire

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Appreciation is absolutely crucial when it comes to building an awesome company. You must appreciate your employees, customers and vendors because when you show people that you love and appreciate them, they respond by loving and appreciating you back.

That being said, appreciation can also backfire.

Here are five ways that an appreciation campaign could inadvertently send a message that you just don't care.

Related: Sincere Appreciation Is the Magic Ingredient for Good Morale

1. Pitched-in-for flowers. 

Every organization should have a budget in place for sending flowers when an employee is facing a lengthy illness or experiencing the death of a loved one.

Many such companies have no such budget, leaving it to their employees to rustle up the funds for flowers. I think it's great that the co-workers send their love and appreciation, but when the package is delivered, it's not the same as if it were coming from the president, CEO or simply the company.

A formal bouquet for sending some love when an employee is suffering sends a message that the firm cares. When the flowers are paid for by employees, however, a totally different message is created and it's not a good one.

2. Pay-your-way award dinners.

Business leaders should definitely put together a killer awards dinner or luncheon to celebrate their sales team and other employees.

What you should not do is charge for it. This practice is not uncommon in some industries, like mine, real estate.

Many organizations host one-of-a kind recognition events to tell their people they are awesome, only to muddy the message by charging $100 (or another sum) for a ticket. 

If cost is a concern, scale back on the extras at the  event rather than charge people for tickets. Appreciation is soiled when the receiver has to pay for it.

Related: 5 Easy Ways to Keep Top Performers Happy

3. Uneven demonstration of gratitude.

If you want to build an amazing company culture through appreciation, then distribute it equally. For example, don't send one employee a birthday gift without also sending something to the others.

My organization collects birthday information on each person joining the company and their spouses and kids, too. There's a system in place so that no one's birthday is forgotten.

It's hard work to stay on top of hundreds or thousands of people but important. The message conveyed by the organization when one person is left out trumps all the good messages of appreciation sent to everyone else.  

4. Human error.

I now oversee the appreciation of my team members. This means that if a birthday gift or any form of appreciation is sent to one team member or his or her family, I know about it. Nothing is sent without my approval first.

For many years, I left this to someone else at the company. One day, a birthday gift was inadvertently sent to the adult stepson of one of my team members. Imagine my horror when a team member approached me to inform me that the stepson had passed away a month earlier.

I had known of the death, but the person handling the appreciation campaigns didn't. All the appreciation the company had sent to that family over many years was canceled out by one human error.

Now I spend two hours a month sorting through the list of people that should be recognized with a card or gifts. It requires that I stay on top of the lives of my team members and their families. I need to know about deaths, divorces, promotions, tragedies, celebrations and more.

It's hard but important work because in my world, nothing matters as much as letting people know the company cares about them.

5. Changing or eliminating a reward. 

If you've ever seen National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation you will remember the stellar freak-out scene when Clark Griswold realizes that his Christmas bonus that year is not money, as in the past, but rather a subscription to a jelly of the month club.

This is a classic example of an employer sending a gift of appreciation that backfires. This is not to say that you can't eliminate or change an appreciation campaign. But once you set the expectation as to how, when and why you are going to appreciate people, uphold that expectation or explain why you can no longer do so well in advance of when the appreciation is expected.

Related: 6 Things Your Employees May Be Wishing for This Year