Attitude Adjustment: How Employee Recognition and (a Little) Humility Can Help

Surveys are tricky things — especially one-question, multi-choice polls with little context.

Sure, they’re fun and occasionally insightful (I enjoy running them on my own blog), but reading and interpreting the results should always be taken with a grain of salt.

Case in point – a recent poll in SmartBrief on Leadership: Whom would you rather lead as a member of your team?

  • High performer with an attitude problem — 44 percent
  • Low performer with a great attitude — 33 percent
  • Mediocre performer with an average attitude — 23 percent

High performers should help others achieve

Frightening results when taken at face value. Mike Figliuolo’s take in response to those results is pitch-perfect:

Your team members who might not be high performers see the high performers get away with having an attitude problem. It damages morale, and that attitude might even rub off on average or low performers. Address the attitude issue head-on. Explain to high performers that their attitude is hurting the team and its performance. If they’re true high performers, they’ll want to achieve in all areas, including having a positive attitude.”

I like the idea of a definition change – you won’t be classified as a high-performer if your attitude doesn’t reflect a positive, supportive desire to help others achieve. What’s a key element of such an attitude? Actively recognizing and praising others for the good work they do. This outward expression of recognition indicates the high performer knows he/she isn’t achieving such stellar results alone. Their success is backed by an entire cadre of people making it possible for them to continually succeed.

Cuba Gooding shows how to recognize others

That humility, reflected as a desire to acknowledge and recognize the contributions of others, can change the attitude of the individual as wall as the entire “attitude” of the company as reflected in the company culture.

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Cuba Gooding Jr’s Oscar acceptance speech (see link to video below) is an excellent example of the “pay it forward” nature of recognition. People love to be acknowledged and recognized for the good work they do. Once recognized themselves, they often recognize others, especially those who helped them achieve their success.

Appreciation is contagious. You can see it in how the crowd responds to Cuba’s joy. The same effect can be seen in the workplace. Contagious joy in the sharing of recognition and appreciation.

This originally appeared on Derek Irvine’s 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


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