Celebrating Achievement

Recognize Success to Increase Motivation

Celebrating Achievement - Recognize Success to Increase Motivation

© Getty Images

Find the right way to celebrate success.

Celebrating a milestone like an anniversary, a birthday, or a great set of grades can give us an amazing feeling. And it can be even better when someone else notices our achievements and makes the effort to acknowledge them.

This is true at work, too. Celebrating achievement can boost confidence and increase motivation. Showing appreciation can also boost your organization's reputation, improve retention, and help to attract top talent.

But how much recognition is enough? And when do celebrations become overbearing or lose meaning? In this article, we explore nine ways to celebrate achievement in your team, while avoiding the pitfalls.

Celebrating Success

Take a moment to consider how your team or organization celebrates success or achievement. Is it having a positive impact?

In a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), most respondents said that their companies did operate some kind of recognition scheme. However, more than a third of the people surveyed had received no recognition in the previous year. Less than half said that recognition was provided fairly, and only half said that they felt valued by their employer.

The employer probably had the best of intentions, but these schemes were likely a waste of effort and resources, and left many employees feeling demoralized rather than motivated.

If you celebrate achievement in the right way, you'll likely increase confidence and motivation, leading to happier and more productive teams. If you rarely acknowledge a job well done (or you celebrate in a way that feels forced, unfair or inappropriate) there's a risk that morale and dedication will slip away.

A reputation for celebrating wins and effort can also become a central pillar of your employer branding, helping your organization to attract and retain talent.

What Is Achievement?

When we think of an achievement, we tend to picture something out of the ordinary, like exceeding targets, landing a big sale, or delivering a project milestone.

But other, less measurable, behaviors deserve recognition, too – for example, pulling together as a team to head off a crisis, learning and applying a new skill, or supporting new recruits. Even something as simple as quietly consistent good work can be worthy of celebration.

You might wonder why you should bother to bolster your team members' self-esteem in the first place. After all, aren't they just doing what they're paid for?

But self-assured teams don't "rest on their laurels." Acknowledging and celebrating their achievements is part of building an effective, driven team that will actively seek to improve results and performance.

Make Celebration Meaningful

Whatever you choose to celebrate, make sure it's appropriate for the people involved.

A celebration can take many forms, from a private, low-key conversation to a public event with no expense spared. But the APA survey we referred to earlier also showed that a reward or gift has no positive effect if the recipient doesn't actually want it, no matter how much you've spent on it.

So, be sure to think carefully about your colleagues' preferences and personalities – and the dynamics of the team – before you hold a celebration.

For example, if the person concerned is an introvert, they might not want to stand up and give a speech, or receive a gift in front of their colleagues. Instead, a quiet, personal "well done" could be all they need, and they'll appreciate it even more knowing that you've taken their preferences into account.

Similarly, don't present a bottle of champagne to a person who doesn't drink alcohol, or organize an expensive outing for the team when salaries are frozen.

Some people may feel offended or patronized by any overt appreciation of their work. From their perspective, it might seem to imply surprise that they've done well! There might also be wider cultural faux pas to avoid if you're part of a culturally diverse team.

Also consider whether your organization, or the people in your team, place more value on extrinsic or intrinsic rewards. For example, a conscientious team member might enjoy the opportunity to spend time on a personal project more than receiving a monetary bonus.

One way to find out what your people value is simply to ask them. You can do this informally, or through an employee satisfaction survey.


Don't go overboard! Excessive celebration of everyday efforts might make you appear out of touch with your team's work. And if you give praise too frequently, it can lose its impact.

Finding This Article Useful?

You can learn another 276 team management skills, like this, by joining the Mind Tools Club.

Join the Mind Tools Club Today!

Recognize Your Own Achievements

Don't forget to celebrate your own accomplishments, too!

Find time to think about what you've achieved as part of your personal goal setting. This can boost your self-esteem, and your sense of autonomy and mastery. It can also increase your visibility, particularly if you share the credit with others.

But avoid indulging in noisy self-promotion: it may seem like arrogance, your co-workers won't appreciate it, and it could damage your reputation.

Nine Ways to Celebrate Achievement

So, how can you acknowledge and applaud success? Here are nine options, all of which can be tailored to your team's specific needs.

1. Just say it. A straightforward, face-to-face "well done" is a simple but effective way to celebrate achievement. A personal email can be sufficient, too, and a handwritten card or note can add a valuable personal touch.

Gathering the team together to acknowledge success can be a powerful statement, and a round of applause can be uplifting and team-building – but take care not to embarrass anyone.

2. Share success stories. A group message is another option. Tailor it to the specific person and their achievement, but don't overuse this method or it could come across as formulaic.

You can use email, the company newsletter, social media, or a messaging platform to share and celebrate success stories. You could even set up a dedicated channel to highlight and congratulate people for jobs well done. This has the added benefit of raising your team member's profile.

3. Pay it forward. When you're celebrating an achievement of your own, show your gratitude by acknowledging the people who helped to make it happen. Always look out for opportunities to help other people to succeed, so that they have a reason to celebrate, too.

And when team members share good news, always try to respond positively. Positive reinforcements further enhance team morale.

4. Give a gift. A celebratory gift could be a one-off cash bonus, or a non-cash equivalent, such as a retail or experience voucher. Cash is often the most popular reward, but think very carefully about how other employees might perceive it. Bear in mind that some team members may already be incentivized with cash bonuses.

Try to avoid setting a precedent: you don't want recognition to become just an impersonal cash transaction.

Gifts such as food or flowers are a relatively inexpensive yet powerful way of recognizing achievement. Make sure that you consider any dietary or allergy issues. There may also be cultural sensitivities around giving gifts that you should be aware of.

5. Get together socially. Celebrating by buying team members a meal or drink can be an effective way to reward them and to boost team spirit. However, beware excluding anyone who, for example, is away on vacation, has special dietary requirements, or has caregiving responsibilities.

If you hold your event during the working day, be mindful of colleagues' deadlines and be clear about whether you expect them to return to work afterward.

6. Organize a team day out. A trip to the movies, a meal at a restaurant, attending a sporting event, or even a day of outdoor activities are all common ways of celebrating. But there are potential risks to keep in mind, too.

Everyone will likely have a different idea of "fun," so try to find an activity that will be popular across the board. You won't want anyone to be unhappy or refuse to take part. This is a particular risk with physical or outdoor activities that might be difficult for some people, for health, accessibility or confidence reasons.

Once you've agreed on a suitable event, further questions to answer might be:

  • What's included in the day at the company's expense?
  • Is there anyone who'd find it hard to afford the other parts of the day?
  • Can people bring family members?
  • If so, will those family members have to pay their own way?
  • Where does that leave colleagues who are single or without children?

7. Offer extra holiday. Time off can be a great reward, especially when your team has worked extra hours to complete a project. But would working late occasionally for no particular reason also count as an achievement? Be careful about creating false expectations for the future.

8. Set up a hall of fame. An "employee of the week" noticeboard or notification can be popular and effective, but it can lose impact over time.

You risk accusations of tokenism if you feel obliged to choose someone rather than no one, whether they deserve it or not. And if you keep recognizing a "star" team member, or constantly overlook another, you might start to alienate people.

9. Have an awards ceremony. A glitzy evening of music, trophies and speeches is an exciting way to combine socializing, team building and networking with formal recognition and celebration.

If you have the budget, you can hire a venue and a professional events team. However, if you want to limit the expense and increase participation, get your team involved in managing and running the event, including making the food and costumes. This will be fun and rewarding in itself!

This list is by no means exhaustive. Use your imagination and judgment to create your own celebrations – and see what happens to productivity and job satisfaction when your people feel celebrated and recognized for their work.

Key Points

Celebrating achievement is an important part of building and maintaining an effective, self-assured team, boosting your own confidence, and making your organization a great place to work.

There are many ways to celebrate achievement. The key is to understand your team members and what motivates them. That way, you can celebrate appropriately, fairly, and with lasting impact.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!

Rate this resource

Comments (3)
  • Over a month ago gregemma wrote
    its always good to tell a person how good and feel enthralled with fluffiness what a great person they turned into
  • Over a month ago Midgie wrote
    Hi Zuni,
    Thanks for sharing your experiences. Recognition programs should be available to everyone regardless of whether they work on a major strategic project or not. I am curious whether that organization had to come up with another means to celebrate achievement and reward employees to help re-engage and re-motivate them.

    Has anyone experienced a similar situation of de-motivating employees and what did the company do?

    Mind Tools Team
  • Over a month ago zuni wrote
    You can't underestimate how important it is to recognize employees. Getting the "formula" right can be very difficult.

    In one organization I worked for all forms of recognition were tied to achievement of results. This was very much in line with the CEO's strategy to build a high performing culture. There were two levels of recognition: the exceeds honor roll and the top 1%. Getting an exceeds rating was difficult. Those on the honor roll achieved the first tier of excellence. They received corporate recognition, an increase in their bonus and a plaque accompanied by a letter signed by the CEO. Those who received them displayed them proudly on their desks. The top 1% received a substantial increase to their bonus and attended a posh event with the executive in attendance. Recipients also received a crystal trophy to mark the occasion. After two years of the recognition program, it became apparent to employees that unless they were assigned to a major strategic project, there wasn't any hope of being recognized. The recognition program began to lose its motivational appeal.