The Scarcity Mindset

21 Mar

We read a lot these days that some of the natural resources important to our economy and way of life are becoming scarcer. With this scarcity the price of these commodities will increase as supply outpaces demand. Good stewardship suggests that conservation of these precious assets would be in our best interests.

We don’t doubt the veracity of these claims and the associated mindset when it comes to managing the world’s natural resources, but this scarcity mentality has crept into the thinking of many leaders when it comes to an important tool at their command– recognizing employees for their contributions.

Here are the voices of two employees from an engagement survey whose leaders apparently see recognizing and listening to employees as if it were the planet’s last barrel of crude oil:

“If employees try to help in the growth of the firm and they were listened to by the authority of this place it might be something more and they would not need to be changing employees frequently. Along with that everyone should be recognized for the good they do.”

“Company does not recognize you for hard work and a job well done.  They do not value loyalty.”

Many of us know how demoralizing a work environment like this can be, where employees work hard and nobody seems to be paying attention. When it comes to hoarding recognition like a scarce resource we hear feeble dodges such as these from less-than-effective managers: “You don’t want to recognize people because it will just go to their heads.” Or “if you recognize people this time they’ll expect recognition all the time.”


The philosopher Cicero said “We are motivated by a keen desire for praise, and the better a man is, the more he is inspired by glory.”  The employees whose comments we present below obviously respond to leaders who understand what Cicero was saying. As a result, they see their workplaces in a much more positive light, and are no doubt far more engaged:

“I knew that I wanted to work here when I first visited this office.  The atmosphere is young, exciting, and full of energy.  It is an amazing mix of fun and hard work where creativity is encouraged and accomplishment recognized and celebrated.”

This place has great energy. It truly functions like a family of people who really care about each other, respect their work but also challenge their peers. The bar is set quite high but it’s an incredibly healthy work environment.  And hard work is recognized and rewarded.”

These last two comments are common at highly engaged employers, and we don’t believe it’s by luck or chance they often use phrases such as “full of energy” when describing their place of work. Leaders at these companies know that recognition, properly used in an engaging culture, actually generates more vigor, more pride, and more of the get-up-and-go our places of work so desperately need.

Recognition– a leader’s plentiful, non-toxic, renewable energy source.

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