Recognizing the Quiet Employee

Posted on February 12, 2014.

Sad to say, but there is a lot of truth in the adage, “ the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. Plus, superstars will get a lot of attention without necessarily having to be “squeaky”. But what about the person that comes in every day, does a great job, never complains, never asks for a raise, and always goes above and beyond without being asked to do so?

These people are the forgotten ones.  If you’re honest with yourself, you completely take them for granted. You assume they’ll always be there and when it’s time for bonuses, you rationalize that “We don’t have to give John too much. He seems pretty happy and he’s not going anywhere.” But in my experience, overlooking your steady, quiet employee can lead to unexpected and unwanted turnover. Since it’s impossible (and unhealthy) to have a staff full of type A superstars, you might want to spend a little more attention to this group.

Just because they don’t say anything, doesn’t mean your more introverted employee doesn’t want the same recognition and reward as their louder extroverted counterparts.  The challenge is on you, so here’s a few ideas that might work:

·      Recognize their efforts publicly.  At the next staff meeting, instead of giving accolades to only your top 1%-2%, start creating categories that include this group of people. These categories might look like: “Best team player of the month”, or “Consistently met or exceeded every deadline”.  Plus, there’s always the potential that they hit the superstar level at any given time.

·      Ask for their opinion. It’s been my experience that the superstars that work for you love to tell you what they think.  In fact, they often like to tell you how to do your job.  After all, that kind of confidence is a key strength. So take the time to seek out the opinion and advice of your less vocal employees. What you often find is that because they tend to listen more than talk, they have a better handle on what’s really going on in the office.

·       Make sure the boss knows about them. Whenever my out of town boss was in town, I would try to set up skip level meetings.  Make sure you include at least one representative of this group in those meetings. And if your boss never comes to visit, make sure he or she knows about your worker bee through emails (copying the employee of course) or business reviews.

·      Be vocal at bonus time.  If you’re lucky, you might work for an organization that hands you a bucket of money at the end of the year and says, “ Do what you want with it”. Wouldn’t that be nice?  But since that world is likely a dream, you’re required to justify bonuses for everyone.  If you have a quantitative goal system, it’s pretty easy, but many don’t.  Be prepared to justify the bonus you want to give to your more introverted workers.  Document their performance throughout the year, since they likely won’t. You don’t need to spend that time with your “squeaky wheels” or superstars as I guaranty you they’ve documented every single accomplishment from January 1.

Yes, it takes more effort to single out people who may blend into the background. But trust me when I say that just because they aren’t complaining doesn’t mean they’re happy.  And if they quit, it will be with zero warning, which will make filling the vacancy even more challenging.