Entering the Recognition Wormhole

Paul Hebert Employee Relations, Engagement and Satisfaction, Paul Hebert, Total Rewards

Veyron My wife and I have been looking for a new car.  We made a few inquiries at a local dealership, but the model we were interested in wasn’t available for a test drive (Buggati Veyrons are pretty scarce here in SC.)  We gave our name to the sales person and waited to hear when we could do the test drive.  Fast forward to last Saturday morning – 9:30 am – we got the call!  Like expectant adoptive parents, we scrambled to the dealership for the test drive.

Didn’t like the car.

We did see another car on the showroom floor.  Bought it.  We (my wife) actually drove it off the showroom floor through the big doors and out into the lot.  Who’s ever really done that?  That was pretty cool.

What wasn’t cool was that we didn’t leave the dealership until 3:00 pm.

Time Is Not On Your Side

Yeah, do the math.  FIVE hours from hitting the dealership until we left.  I don’t care how much you love your new car – 5 hours is a long time to sit in a dealership watching overweight men in tight knit shirts smoke cigarettes and chat up the receptionist.  The bad thing is that during that time I started thinking about the payments, the insurance, the style, the color, the features… everything.  I started losing that “we actually drove it off the freakin showroom floor” feeling.

The time between the decision and the documentation was too long.  It took the wind out of their sales and mine (extremely poor pun intended).

Employee Recognition Is Temporally Sensitive

Heads up managers – your employees have the same exact experience when they worked hard and you wait too long to recognize the effort.

Just like me on the showroom floor, as the time drags between the employee’s efforts and the recognition they should get – the less impact it will have.  When you recognize and praise during their “high” those two things get cemented together in their minds.  They’re not thinking about the long nights, the missed lunches or the early mornings.  They are thinking about the success and your praise.  You’re magnifying that event with your recognition.

On the other hand, like me in the dealership, recognition and reward that happens too long after the fact gives them time to remember the negatives and sacrifices they made.  They’ve had time to think about the missed t-ball games and birthday parties.  Now the recognition is a negative – “Gee thanks.  I worked my butt off and all I get is this lousy t-shirt?”  Think about “employee of the year” awards – does that really reinforce the feeling the employee had 10 months ago?  Or does it remind them that you haven’t recognized them for 10 months?  I’m guessing the latter.

When too much time disconnects your recognition from their effort, you travel through what I call the “Recognition WormHole.”

Normally, wormholes in space collapse distance by bending space-time – but in the recognition dimension of our universe – recognition wormholes expand space and create negative consequences.