Kudos to LinkedIn for encouraging the practice of recognizing others.
If you’re part of LinkedIn, you probably get email messages or announcements about people in your network who have earned a promotion, started a new job or done some other noteworthy action.
LinkedIn even goes one step further and suggests you “Say congrats.”
With just a click, you can easily send a quick message to your connection or “like” their accomplishment.
Why is this commendable?
Recognition is good for the brain as the act gives pleasure to the giver and receiver.
And there isn’t much recognition at work, compared to other venues. For example, the John Templeton Foundation found that the workplace ranked dead last among places where people express gratitude, as reported by the Wall Street Journal’s article, “Showing Appreciation at the Office? No, Thanks.” Only 10% of adults say thank you to a colleague each day.
Now LinkedIn makes it so easy to appreciate what others are doing.
When you click to recognize others, you don’t have to motivate yourself or sharpen your skills.
To say it another way, there’s no will or skill needed to get you over the hill to act. This is the goal standard for getting people to do something.
Consider the unintended consequences though.
From the recipients’ perspectives, many of the “Congrats” are nonsensical. For example, we’re congratulating people for:
- Taking a new job when the individual has updated his or her title.
- Updating their profile to show they are in transition—that phrase for being in-between jobs.
- Joining a company when the individual is officially now working for himself or herself.
Just the other day someone recognized one of my connections, Donna Fisher, for joining the newly-formed Fisher Communications company by writing: “Congratulations! Fisher should be proud to have landed you as an employee!” (By the way, the name was changed to protect the guilty.)
On the upside, these shoot-from-the-hip messages are timely and succinct—two attributes of powerful recognition.
On the downside, these messages lack specificity and relevancy—two other important attributes of meaningful recognition. They don’t show why you think your colleague deserves the recognition you’re bestowing upon them.
What’s the implication?
Well, the people you’re acknowledging may enjoy hearing from you.
However, in their eyes, you may be coming across as a “mental coach potato,” a term Dr. Matthew Lieberman uses in his wonderful new book, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect.
As Dr. Lieberman explains, we humans are the only species that has a well-developed ability to read others’ minds. That is, we can infer how people are likely to behave in different situations.
However, we need to make an effort to use our “mentalizing system” for it to work effectively. And we humans—like many other species that don’t have this sophisticated system—are lazy. As Dr. Lieberman writes, “If there’s a way to avoid exerting effort, we almost always do.”
So thanks to LinkedIn, which has made our recognition job so much easier, we can skip the hard work and hope we still get the glory for recognizing others.
But is it at the expense of being viewed as someone who just goes through the motions rather than acting as a considerate colleague?
We may feel good for recognizing others, but will they?
So how about thinking the next time you’re ready to recognize someone on LinkedIn. Consider how you can personalize your message to make it meaningful.
What will it be? A quick click or a custom note?
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