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General Articles

Now serving reciprocity, recognition and appreciation……or not as the case may be

New Series: Tough issues tackled

On Maslow’s scale of human needs, feeling valued and having one’s contribution to society or the workplace recognized is right up there as of paramount importance to our psychological wellbeing and motivation to exist (scale 4). In fact I would go further and say that feeling appreciated and recognized is a FUNDAMENTAL need. This is why we have created certificates, diplomas, medals, trophies, awards, titles of every shape and colour so we can feel valued and see a token of someone else’s appreciation.

It was therefore no surprise to me when one of my client’s told me last week that he was feeling really down due to the lack of gratitude and recognition showed by one of his own clients. My client had not only gone the extra mile for this client but had literally completed a ‘work marathon’ putting in extra time and doing favours that were not part of his original contract. When he needed a very small favour in return, it was refused and he was devastated.

I felt compelled to ask him if he had done his cross-cultural homework before embarking on such a show of generosity. Many of us grow up with such phrases as ‘one good turn deserves another’, ‘do as you would be done by’ and the French are always talking about sending the ‘lift’ back to each other. Thus, for many of us in the West there are unwritten laws of reciprocity. We write thank you notes for gifts and hospitality and send flowers to our hosts. We recognize when someone has gone out of their way for us and we are happy to do the same for them. If you are dealing with the southern European cultures (as many people are down here) this represents few problems as the French are very reciprocal and often take each other out for a dinner in a good quality restaurant when they have received a special favour, the Italians likewise and in turn both go out of their way to help you in anyway they can when you have helped them or their families. How many times have Monegasques said to me over the years ‘if you ever need anything…’.

So it comes as an almighty shock when we are dealing with other cultures to find that the same rules are not always put into practice.

Companies know that if you don’t look after star employees and motivate the troops you will lose those employees and teams are only as good as the motivation they sustain. People don’t leave companies, they leave people. This is something that Eastern European cultures are struggling to come to terms with. Theirs is much more a master and servant relationship and the idea of showing gratitude or appreciation alien to them.

Over the past few years I have worked with clients on expectation management and regularly brief the staff of one of my UHNW eastern European clients after the latter asked me how they could stop the staff hemorrhage. They had a history of taking on westerners but treated them as they would treat eastern Europeans in their own culture – no ‘pleases’ no ‘thank yous’, criticism if they were displeased but zero appreciation if the staff performed particularly well. In fact I had to coach both sides: the bosses needed to be taught to give regular positive feedback when deserved and the staff to understand the culture they were working for and all that this implied.

It is never enough to pay someone simply a high salary. That may be an initial motivator but there has to be a way of measuring and recognising performance.

I work with companies where KPIs (key performance indicators) are the norm but in many cultures there is no translation for these terms let alone any understanding of what they mean or what you do about them.

Today’s global market place means that you could find yourself working for the Chinese in Milan and reporting to someone in New York or Kazakhstan. It pays to do your cross-cultural homework. I see the complexities and low moral all too frequently when I run team-building days for multinationals. People underestimate the differences in attitudes between different peoples and then find themselves floundering in the depths of despair for lack of recognition. Do your homework, take advice, find out WHO you are working for in terms of cross-cultural attitudes and differences. Expectations on both sides will be different and possibly incompatible. Feedback or lack of it may not be what you are used to. What do they expect and what can you expect in return if anything? Is this compatible with the person you are? How long do you think you can stand being treated this way? Is the money enough for you or do you want a lift that goes up as well as down.

Yes recognition is a basic human need! We should practice it daily but then of course not every one recognizes that!

If you would like to receive coaching, training or tutoring from Judy, you can contact her on: and

Friday, 1 July 2016    Section: General Articles    Author: Judy Churchill
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