This week, President Obama and the U.S. Government honored two World War I veterans posthumously with the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor on the battlefield.
The two soldiers in question, Private Henry Johnson and Sergeant William Shemin, were previously overlooked for the medal because of their race. Obama stressed the importance of showing gratitude, even almost 100 years after the fact.
As The New York Times reported, the President said: “It takes our nation too long, sometimes, to say so. We have work to do as a nation to make sure that all of our heroes’ stories are told. The least we can do is to say, ‘We know who you are, we know what you did for us. We are forever grateful.’ ”
This got me thinking about how we show gratitude on a daily basis.
“Strike while the iron is hot” is the general wisdom when talking about recognizing employees for their accomplishments, but what happens when you have a lapse?
Sometimes life gets busy, and there are outside circumstances preventing you from delivering that timely recognition. Maybe you’ve been on your way home after a long day and thought you could have spoken up more when someone helped you out or did something great.
Better late than never
It happens from time to time, and the moment of recognition can be completely forgotten. But if you’re not a posthumous World War I veteran who served in a time of high intolerance, you have much less of an excuse.
We’re here to tell you it’s not the worst thing in the world to forget. As much as we like to stress engaging and recognizing employees early on and being timely, the coronation ceremony that happened this week should remind us that it’s also never too late to recognize someone for their accomplishments, and in some cases, it’s absolutely necessary to restore balance.
Because really all we’re talking about is avoiding awkwardness. Yes, it’s awkward to approach someone, eat some crow, and try to thank them for something long after the fact. It’s awkward for the U.S. Government to admit to racial intolerance and award these medals 100 years after the fact.
But we don’t do it for ourselves; we do it for the people who deserve the recognition, because it’s a small price to pay. We are judged by our actions, not our words, and late gratitude is always better than no gratitude at all.
Going to great efforts to thank someone is almost universally respected.
A recent Gallup poll showed that 25 percent of employees are flat-out ignored by their managers. They went on to say that being ignored by a manager is about twice as bad for engagement than if these managers focused exclusively on the employees’ weaknesses.
Forgetting to recognize is nothing but bad news, so do everything you can to pay attention and celebrate the moment, and be sure to remember those moments when you weren’t so timely and making them right, because rest assured your employees won’t forget how it made them feel.
It may be awkward to broach, but surely we can all endure a few moments of awkwardness to do give each other our proper dues.
This was originally published on the Michael C. Fina blog.