Appreciation Matters, or the Problem With Cash for Employee Recognition

Last week I discussed why the end-of-year bonus practice should be ended. Then I read this post from Jill Geisler on

Jill is speaking more to the problem of managers who believe “your paycheck is thanks enough,” but if her main point applies equally well to using cash bonuses as the “currency” of appreciation and recognition. She says:

Your paycheck is your thanks” … is not uncommon. I hear about it from staffers and managers alike, those who complain about it and those who defend the philosophy.

Here’s my take: It’s wrongheaded thinking. It’s counterproductive for the staff, the boss, and the organization. Make no mistake: paychecks are great. (Ask anyone desperate for one these days.) But they represent one half of a transaction, a baseline act of reciprocity. When I pay my cable or heating bill, I’m forking over what I owe; I’m not sending appreciation.”

The problem with cash for employee recognition

That last sentence above (emphasis mine) is the heart of the matter. Cash is the currency of transaction. Cash is payment for services rendered. Cash should never be the currency of appreciation and recognition.

When cash is used for employee recognition, appreciation and reward efforts, it is easy for employees to not even realize they’ve received that recognition. Think about the last time you may have received a cash bonus in your paycheck. In today’s direct-deposit world, it’s not unusual to hear stories like this one I’ve related before:

At my last company, I got a $500 bonus directly into my direct deposit account. From the time I left work to the time I arrived home, my wife saw that bonus in the bank account and went shopping with the girls. I never even saw it.”

Yes, appreciation DOES matter

That’s why you need a different currency and deliver method for recognition and appreciation than for compensation. But always, the most important bottom line in this discussion was put best by Jill in the Poynter article reference above:

Article Continues Below

“When it comes to employees and co-workers, appreciation matters.”

How does your organization, your manager – or you – express appreciation to your peers and colleagues? Is it memorable? Does it make you feel valued for your efforts and contributions? Or does it feel more like a simple transaction?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *