Human beings; you, me—everybody; literally hunger for achievement, just like we hunger for food, water, and oxygen.

This “appetite to achieve” makes engineering sense.  Human beings obviously need to get stuff done to survive, so nature wired a brief, euphoric high into the system to make sure we accomplish our daily tasks.  Pretty logical, wouldn’t you agree?

Sadly, the dopamine-fueled achievement pleasure is short-lived, because nature’s message is, “Ok, good job, now get out there and achieve another goal.”  Fortunately, tangible reminders like merchandise, plaques, and heartfelt notes from our bosses, allow us to recall and re-live our past achievements.

In case you are having trouble relating to the “euphoria of achievement,” think of how you felt the last time you crushed a long drive down the middle of the fairway, smashed an ace in tennis, or hit a three-pointer in basketball?  This euphoria-of-a win is the same pleasure that causes Tiger Woods to pump his fist after sinking a 30-foot putt.  It motivates high fives, chest butts, and a variety of hoots, hollers and related silliness.  If a workplace does not reverberate with such exuberant demonstrations of success, “Houston, we have a problem—a motivational meltdown of disastrous proportions.”

Consider, for a moment, a world in which these natural, productive highs did not exist.  In a blink of an eye, we would no longer care about being productive or achieving goals and the economy would crash.  We would also stop watching competitive sports because winning or losing would feel the same—BLAH, NOTHING.

Seen from this perspective, the recognition industry is not only important, it is vital for a healthy economy, healthy minds and a vibrant society.  Please take a moment to savor this important message; “AWESOME JOB, recognition professionals!”

The recognition industry is extra important considering that managers and supervisors are extremely stingy at handing out compliments.  The typical workplace appears to be a left-brained, hyper-rational, wasteland that disrespects the motivational engine.   According to Gallup, “One poll found that an astounding 65% of Americans reported receiving NO recognition for their good work in the past year.”  Yikes!  What’s up?

This dearth of recognition wouldn’t be a problem if employees could simply recognize their own successes and give themselves a pat on the back.  Unfortunately, this is not an option. Engineering logic dictates that we cannot recognize ourselves, any more than we can tickle ourselves.

If we could trigger the euphoria of a win on our own, what do you think would happen?  Most likely we would steal undeserved pleasures from the brain’s reward pharmacy all the time—just like drug addicts cheat by smoking or injecting crack cocaine.

Your assignment, should you chose to accept it, is to convince the business community to “lighten up,” pay more attention to their hard working employees, and carve out some time to savor successes and unleash the natural, productive pleasures that nature created to energize workplace excellence.