How Do People Like to Be Recognized? Ask Them!

Here’s a recognition experience submitted by Paola Baca, Associate Director, Undergraduate Admissions.


thank you

When I first started working in the Undergraduate Admissions Office in 2012, I wanted to find ways to recognize my colleagues for the exceptional work they do “behind the scenes” for the University. Every year, they evaluate over 40,000 applications and associated documents to form the incoming UBC undergraduate class every year.

I decided to send the team an email asking them to voluntarily share how they like to be recognized and also what for them makes recognition most genuine. One by one I received responses and most of the team indicated they prefer to be recognized for achievements personally and individually. They did not want public recognition, to be put on the spot, or singled out.

So, I stocked my desk full of thank-you cards, and then observed acts of kindness towards colleagues as well as acts of excellence in service for students and colleagues, both on our team and across the campus. I simply wrote what I had noticed and its impact on the thank you card and left it on my colleagues’ desks. Sometimes I added the person’s favourite chocolate or treat.

At the end of the calendar year, I write everyone a holiday card specifically pointing out their contributions to our team. The words are specific, individual, and genuine. And I listen closely to personal milestones – graduations from graduate school, engagements, Canadian citizenship ceremonies, inductions to the UBC 25 year club, so that we can celebrate colleagues with surprises and special gatherings at our Goodie Days.

My hope is that this has a positive impact on my colleagues. I do see my cards pinned to their bulletin boards, and smiles of surprise when they find them on their desk. The impact on me is tremendous—it reminds me of how fortunate I am to work with such talented, intelligent, and humble colleagues.


We have two Lynda.com videos that focus on the value of the “Thank You” and the ways to focus on non-monetary motivators in recognition. Please first log in to lynda.com via lynda.ubc.ca to view these videos.

Lynda Screenshot - Nonmonetary Motivators

Enhance your creative and thoughtful recognition by learning about four types of non-monetary incentives in the video using non-monetary motivators.

Lynda Screenshot - Action-based Gratitude

A powerful thank you has three common traits; it’s specific, acknowledges the effort, and describes the impact. Learn how to boost your recognition in Action-based gratitude and the “power thank you”

View the full lynda.com playlist of Recognition in the Workplace.


Got a recognition idea or experience to share? Submit it for a chance to win a Starbucks card.

One response to “How Do People Like to Be Recognized? Ask Them!”

  1. Kartik Ratra

    Recognizing people for all humane acts of kindness also go a long way in motivating them and making them believe in the positivism and culture of the organization. For every kind and generous act an immediate recognition boosts the individuals belief in the values of humanity and over a period of time helps raise better citizens with better motives , better outlooks and positive attitudes.

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