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Recognition vs Rewards Cheat Sheet (DRAFT) by [deleted]

This is a draft cheat sheet. It is a work in progress and is not finished yet.


As an industry, we’ve created a semantic conundrum for ourselves. We interc­hange the usage of rewards and recogn­ition as if they were identical twins. Ironic­ally, in order to understand them both and to use each better, we must decouple them and tease out their differ­ences and learn the benefits that each brings to the table. Learn from this Top 10 list and apply the insights you gain from it.


1. Rewards are tangib­le. Recogn­ition is intang­ible.** Whether tangible or monetary, rewards are always something you can touch and of a specific amount. Recogn­ition is often invisible in nature and yet priceless in value. You can give recogn­ition without giving a reward. You should never give a reward without giving recogn­ition.

2. Rewards will always be transa­cti­onal. Recogn­ition should always be relati­onal. Rewards are always if you do “X” then you’ll get “Y” in return. Recogn­ition is so much more of a relational exchange between people. Rewards are great for attracting people to an organi­zation, and recogn­ition is perfect for keeping them.

3. Rewards are simply consumed. Recogn­ition is mostly experi­enc­ed. When you receive money or a gift it is usually spent, used up or somehow consumed until it ends. In contrast, recogn­ition is a total immersion experience and a personal encounter of the best kind which can last forever. Carefully using both will help address the unique differ­ences within all of us.

4. Rewards are transf­erable. Recogn­ition is non-tr­ans­fer­able. Rewards can be passed off from one person to another and are temporary in nature. Recogn­ition cannot be removed from the person given to or exchanged and is quite permanent. Focus on achieving that kind of permanence through recogn­ition while using the momentary impact possible through a tangible reward.

5. Rewards are certainly condit­ional. Recogn­ition happens to be uncond­iti­onal. Rewards are very dependent conseq­uences based on certain terms or condit­ions. Recogn­ition, however, tends to be more indepe­ndent and not part of a fixed result derived from specific actions. It is about blending rigidity with flexib­ility or at least knowing when to use one over the other.

Recogn­ition vs Reward

Differ­ences continued

6. Rewards are expected. Recogn­ition is a surpri­se. It seems that, with rewards, we go into a situation knowing that if we perform well we deserve the reward. With recogn­ition, on the other hand, you have no idea until you unexpe­ctedly receive it. Never let anyone down by not giving them a merited reward and learn to be sponta­neous with apprec­iating and celebr­ating people every day.

7. Rewards are econom­ical. Recogn­ition is emotio­nal. Rewards are a prudent use of resources in the whole economy of produc­tion, distri­bution and income. Recogn­ition contrasts as a psycho­logical and emotional event, a felt phenom­enon. Remember that perfor­mance may reign but feelings rule!

8. Rewards are outcome driven. Recogn­ition is focused on behavi­ors. Rewards are used to reinforce the occurrence of achieved results. Recogn­ition can happen anytime someone notices positive behaviors of another. People want to know how they are doing before the end result is achieved.

9. Rewards are fixed. Recogn­ition is flowing. Rewards are fixed and determined based on desired perfor­mance and the expected returns. Recogn­ition is free flowing from one person to another and expanded upon as shared by others. Know when each has their place and use each one wisely.

10. Rewards are impers­onal. Recogn­ition is person­al. Rewards have little human dimension based on their tangible, contra­ctual arrang­ement, even when given to someone. Recogn­ition differs because it’s purely human connection celebr­ating people for who they are and what they do. This is where the giving of rewards can be made much more personable by giving recogn­ition too.