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Different preferences for appreciation and recognition and what to do about it

On coures focussing on type preferences trainers often ask groups of thinkers and feelers to discuss appreciation and recognition and then decide which of the two is more important to them. They are also asked to decide how they want this appreciation or recognition to be shown and to describe what they think or how they feel if they don’t get what they are after. 

Nine times out of ten, thinkers will say that they want recognition and that this recognition must be linked with how well they are currently performing their job. (The main exception here are the ISTJs who do like appreciation but as they want it to be related to their performance it is very similar to what other thinkers define as recognition.)

In other words, thinkers want their skills and achievements to be recognised by others. Thinkers do regularly say they want this recognition in the form of increased money, status or benefits of some kind.  But some thinkers say that money is not important and that they want the recognition of their ability to lead to higher profile or more important work. Thinkers usually say that if the recognition is not forthcoming, they will become unmotivated and may apply for other jobs. Sometimes thinkers will add that it is the organisation’s problem if they don’t recognise their true worth.

What is generally clear from thinkers’ comments is that they only want to be praised at the end of a job they have excelled in and that they only like praise when it is given by someone’s whose opinion they respect. Thinkers say they find praise for routine tasks patronising  - 'that’s what we’re paid for, after all.'

Again, nine times out of ten, feelers will take a completely different approach.. Feelers usually choose appreciation and they want this appreciation, not for how well they have done a specific task as such but for what they have personally put into the job, project or whatever. So this is not so much about the end result as how they have gone about the task and how well they have worked with others.  Feelers will often say they want this appreciation to be shown in feedback and that they like people to thank them for their efforts. Very rarely do feelers list money or perks as something they are seeking – though most wouldn’t say 'no' if it was offered.

It is very common for feelers to say that if they don’t get the appreciation they desire, they feel unmotivated and their self-confidence may go down.  They may doubt their own ability and self-worth.

There is one simple explanation of the difference between the thinkers' and feelers’ approach. It is usually clear from thinkers’ comments that they believe they don’t really need feedback from others on their performance – good or bad – because they are able to use their logical thinking to critique their own work. In other words, thinkers arrogate to themselves the power to judge their own performance and only seek occasional confirmation of this from those they admire. 

Feelers, however, prefer to use a subjective method of assessment. They aren’t keen to stand back and logically critique what they have done and they are looking for someone to give them personal feedback. Besides what feelers are often trying to do is work well with others to further a collective goal of some kind. For feelers this means it is up to the other people working with them to let them know how well they are doing and whether their efforts are appreciated. So feelers have less need to logically assess their own performance as they are looking for quality feedback from others.

The appreciation/recognition question is important in the workplace as it forms the core of how motivated people feel at work. I have worked with teams where appreciation/recognition issues were not handled well by the team leader and team effectiveness was undermined as a result.

Let us take the example of teams where many team members have a a preference for feeling and the team leader has a preference for T. As Ts often believe praise to be patronising, they are often rather miserly with how much they give their staff believing that 'too much praise cheapens the coin.'  They often think it unnecessary to thank people for routine jobs as that is what they are paid for. In these instances, the Fs are usually expiring for want of a bit of human attention, praise, thanks or whatever. Their morale, motivation and self-confidence suffers.
   Conversely in other teams thinking team members can be driven wild by their feeling team leader routinely dishing out praise and words of encouragement. The thinkers feel insulted and angered by this and it can have a deleterious effect on team morale. 

In all these cases the team leader is behaving in a way which is entirely reasonable from their point of view.  The T leader is treating others the way they would like to be treated and the F leader is equally doing what they think is right and proper. Unfortunately, this does not take account of type differences and so problems arise.

The thinking/feeling differences on appreciation and recognition are further complicated by the preference for extraversion and introversion. Introvert feeling types, for example, often like a quiet word or a note of appreciation rather than the more public proclamation which some extravert types may seek.

The moral of this section, however, is quite clear. It is important for teams, particularly team leaders, to be aware that people are different and are motivated by different things at work. If you take the view that everyone needs constant praise and thanks as it boosts people’s confidence then you will be driving the thinkers in your team mad. If you take the view that praise and thanks are unnecessary and need only be given out in cases of exceptional effort or results then the feelers in the team will feel starved and their self-confidence may go down.

It is advisable for team leaders in particular to be aware that people vary considerably in what they need and to start paying attention to what seems to motivate or turn off individual team members. If you praise someone and they shrug it off and look uncomfortable then find other ways to recognise their efforts. If, on the other hand, you praise someone and they smile and enjoy your comments then keep giving them that type of feedback. You can also ask team members quite openly how much feedback they are looking for from you or what other ways they think their performance could be rewarded.

Thinking managers often report that their performance as a manager improved dramatically because of this one piece of advice. Once they had knowledge of type differences they could see they just weren’t giving enough positive strokes or attention to some members of their staff. Equally feeling managers have found it useful to know that everyone doesn’t thrive on praise and that the comments they were regularly giving out were a source of annoyance to some members of staff.


© Carol Craig

MBTI, Myers-Briggs, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries; OPP Ltd. has exclusive rights to these trademarks in the U.K.

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