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Acknowledgement and Recognition- the flip side

I was following Rafique’s blog on acknowledgement and recognition and found it invigorating as well as intriguing. Rafique enlists the positive effects of this on the receiver, giver and the community. He suggests that acknowledgement and recognition are a step towards better performance of the individual (so far so good) and the team (this is where it gets tricky). This set me thinking...and hence this blog, my first one (Thanks Rafique!).

While agreeing with Rafique and others who commented on the positive aspects of acknowledgement, I would like to raise another aspect of this.

In the context of a (fiercely) competitive work environment how does one publicly acknowledge someone for their outstanding contribution or excellence without generating jealousy and insecurity among peers/ others?

Even within a family or community setting the by-product of acknowledgement and appreciation could often be resentment and agony among others. Indeed it may motivate many to strive for excellence but does it also not aggravate (many) others, which in turn may result in backbiting and underhand activities aimed at undermining the person who is acknowledged?

My question is- is this inevitable? (I would not like to think so)
And if not, what should we keep in mind when acknowledging, recognising or appreciating someone so that it does not unleash a negative undercurrent in the workplace, family or community setting causing more harm than good?

I look forward to hearing your experiences and views.

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Comment by Rabindran Shelley on October 27, 2009 at 10:54pm
In a NGO environment I have experienced that most people work for satisfaction and not for the income.Jeaoulsy and competition may not be there always. I have seen better results when I have acknowledged and recongnised peoples inputs and initiatives irrespective of who they are. I have learnt more from people who report to us than whom we report to or our peers.
I have also found a lot of inspiration from the Bible where it is mentioned that" Always consider others better than yourself" and also an other quote is " do to others what you would have them do to you......

This is my little bit....
Comment by Dr. E. Mohamed Rafique on October 14, 2009 at 6:56pm
Dear Meera and colleagues,

The quick responses from my friends to Meera's discussion, I appreciate, and acknowledge like Meera has done.

I was a little wary of replying immediately, for I was guilty of 'changing the subject' in the first place. Actually, like Geoff pointed out to me earlier, 'Acknowledgment and Recognition', when the blog was started by him, meant the acknowledgment and recognition of our own vulnerability to HIV. On this theme, permit me to share one more experience of mine.

It was in the early days of HIV, two years after the virus was detected in India. I was then Senior Resident in a Government Medical College Hospital. Universal Precautions was not heard about, and so never seen in practice then. Moreover, there was always a shortage of syringes, needles, gloves and other instruments in the Government Hospitals. So, as Residents we used to carry our own syringes and needles, sterilize them in the wards, before giving the injections to the patients.

Once, for a patient with chronic fever, a diagnostic lumbar puncture was advised. I did the procedure and sent the Cerebro-Spinal Fluid (CSF) to the Lab for diagnosis. As we had been taught, and as per the practice then, and because of the lack of gloves, I did the spinal tap with uncovered hands. So, a few drops of the CSF fell on my bare palms. I did not think much about the incident then.

A few days later during the rounds, the Chief went through the Lab reports which had just come in, and stated that the particular CSF was positive for HIV! Instinctively, I looked at the area on my palms where the CSF had spilled. I imagined what if micro-abrasions were there, by which HIV could have slipped into my body. The reality of the window period put me off from testing immediately. Later, the exigencies of duty kept me away from the labs and the pending HIV test.

However, years later when I was working in a private Hospital of a large Organization, I volunteered for emergency blood donation. Consequently, my HIV status was tested, and since I was then in charge of the blood bank, I knew that I had not been infected. A singular thought that occurred to me then was that even with all the knowledge, information, access and privileges, I had, I still underwent a period of fear and uncertainty. Then, how it would have been for some one without the knowledge, access, and so on.

Another consequence that I have seen is that when one is infected with HIV, the denial, stigma, discrimination and their aftermath that follows in the wake, is the same for every Person Living with HIV (PLHIV), regardless of the route by which the person acquired the infection, be it by sex, blood, or from mother-to-child.

Hope these experiences, help us to realize our own vulnerability to HIV, and thereby see every PLHIV as equal and as human as we are.

With best regards,

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on October 13, 2009 at 4:37am
Dear Meeraji,

Thanks for raising this thought-provoking question. It made me think and think and think. Our words of appreciation can a mean a lot - to the one we are appreciating as well as the people around. Such a powerful part of our self-expression deserves to be delivered in the right way and at the right time- that's what I learnt.

I recall a senior colleague who had told me that I should not appreciate her in public. After the sharing from the group here I think I can do with this much better. Thanks to all for the rich discussion- MariJo, Geoff, Laurence, Jean-Louis, Jiji, Bazo, Rebeka, and Sanghamitra.


Comment by Meera Mishra on October 12, 2009 at 9:35am
Thanks a lot for the wonderful thoughts you have all shared. I have learned a lot through this sharing. Marijo, you are right, everyone has something that we can acknowledge and appreciate about them. And so, instead of waiting for the big achievements, we should inculcate the habit of acknowledging the smallest of gestures and deeds. Not only does this reinforce positive acts but also casts the net of appreciation really wide with everyone being acknowledged for one thing or the other. Great tip Marijo. Will practice this very consciously. Geoff, while it is true that acknowledging the action rather than the person is a great strategy but is it not a bit difficult to separate the two? I have often used it when providing negative feedback and that works very well. But I am trying to figure out how one would do it in a positive setting? Laurence, this is the first time I heard about Watering the Flowers and from your description as well as the feedback of Sanghamitra, Rebeka and Bazo it seems like a very interesting and effective way. Would love to see this in practice. JL thanks for the simple tips. Jiji yes I agree when we truly acknowledge it makes us grow out of ourselves, makes us feel positive about ourselves. It is a rewarding experience for everyone involved. Indeed as Sanghamitra says quite often people feel more good about giving than receiving. All it needs is to not miss a chance to notice, acknowledge and express. I will be more present to this henceforth. My sincere thanks to all of you once again. I am enriched! And thank you Rituu for motivating me to join the Aidscompetence and then again to post this blog.
Comment by Sanghamitra Iyengar on October 12, 2009 at 2:20am
Dear Meera,

Thank you for asking that question. So many of us got to think about this and share our thoughts.

I work in several teams and it got me thinking about what happens.We reflect collectively, so different people acknowledge different things in others, One person does not stand out.

I tried watering the flowers when I got back from Chiang Mai. It was just so amazing. At the end of the exercise with a team who had been together for two days, people were so emotional saying they had never had an opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate their colleagues before and they felt so good about it. The surprising thing is people felt even more "good" about giving than receiving!!

Also, as Marijo says, a small action or comment or thought which we may have over looked till someone points it out and often it will find a resonance. . Most often people feel, That is so true, I did not realise that or I too feel that way

Thanks for making us think of all this. For me it is an ongoing process, and I am always catching myself not acknowledging and appreciating enough!!


Comment by rebeka sultana on October 8, 2009 at 2:32pm

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. To me acknowledgement and recognition is to see and say what you have seen. This comes without judgetment. You do not say this is 'good' or this is bad' rather recognize it is there now, it arises and passing.

Laurence said it is watering the flowers, the good in one's. This happens when for acknowledgement you go to appreciation. In HIV we acknowledge that HIV is our problem, it affects us, our community, we do not judge it we embrace it as it is and based on that we act.

These are my thoughts.

Comment by Bazo on October 7, 2009 at 8:00pm
Dear Meera,
Enjoyed reading your interesting take on acknowledgement and recognition!! Personally, I think the skill lays in not making comparison while publicly appreciating an individual. I agree with what Geoff commented, 'the action" needs to be acknowledge! Laurence's 'watering the flower' is a good idea.

Your Post was more interesting cos i recently realized i don't appreciate nor acknowledge people enough!
thanks for your thoughts!

Comment by Jiji Joseph on October 7, 2009 at 5:09pm
Hi Meera,
Great posting!
I find acknowledgement as something that helps you to grow out of oneself. True, self projection is a matter of survival in the competitive world of today, and that, many believe, have to be done at the expense of the other. However, true spirit of contended life lies in the ability to recognize the qualities in others and acknowledge that. It gives us a window to breathe out our own insecurities and be part of a larger world.

Of course Heartburn and Jealousy are things that are here to stay.. very little can be done about that. But we can bring in these new friends of A&R and be happier!!


Comment by Jean-Louis Lamboray on October 7, 2009 at 4:08pm
Maybe two suggestions:
First, we recognise collective achievement, as we are stimulating community responses.
Second, we state how that achievement will influence our own communities: this is what I saw, and here is how I will transfer your experience in my own context.
Many thanks for this stimulating posting.
Comment by Laurence Gilliot on October 7, 2009 at 3:26pm
Hi Meera,

Thanks for raising this interesting question. One thing I practice in my own life and that I brought to the Constellation is 'watering the flowers'. It comes from Buddhist practice: at every full moon the Buddha would come together with his disciples and practice this.

When we water someone's flowers we express all the beautiful qualities we see in this person, but also moments that touched us. We do not flatter, we do not exaggerate. We speak what we truly feel in our heart.
Often we do not take the time to tell people around us what we think about them. We assume that they know it already. When we tell the person what wholesome qualities we see in them, it will help this person to take care of these talents and qualities and nurture them so that they grow stronger. It helps us to know our own strengths, as perceived by others.

Here in Chiang Mai, we water the flowers at every birthday of my friends. It is our gift as a community. I tried it with my family at Christmas. Gaston did this at the wedding of his brother, to water the flowers of the newly married couple. In the Constellation, we recently started to practice this at the end of each meeting or learning event - we go in small groups and go around to water each persons' flowers. We also practiced this when we did our team evaluation (this was the first step). It is always a moving and beautiful moment that strengthened each community I am part of...

Try it out for yourself!

All the best,


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