From the day we’re born we crave recognition: a proud smile from our parents, a pat on the back from our teacher, a gold medal from our coach, a promotion from our boss. Awards and recognition validate our efforts and make us feel good.
That is, of course, why awards programs are so rampant in workplaces, in schools, and in extracurricular pursuits. But perhaps none are more publicly lauded than the Os-car Awards. Drawing a global audience of over 30 million people, the Oscars recognize film industry professionals for their achievements during an annual three-hour inter-nationally televised ceremony, not to mention extensive red-carpet coverage and post-event analysis.
But winning an Oscar doesn’t make or break an actor. In fact, many actors commonly considered to be A-listers have never won an Oscar, despite numerous nominations. This includes the likes of Brad Pitt, Jake Gyllenhaal, Johnny Depp, Sigourney Weaver, Amy Adams, and even Glenn Close, who holds the record for the most nominations received (seven) without winning. Does the lack of a golden statue diminish their accomplishments as actors? Certainly not. Do they feel short-changed by the lack of recognition from the Academy? Quite possibly. And yet, they continue to do good work.
The Psychology Behind Awards
When it comes to fostering the motivation to work hard, accomplish goals, and be successful, studies have shown that awards can be very effective. Recognition of efforts and contributions often motivates employees more than raises and bonuses. Executives, too, crave awards (and raises, and bonuses), but if the awards don’t come, they often turn to other pursuits that offer visibility and recognition, such as new ventures or company acquisitions.
Of course, not everyone is motivated by awards. Some are extrinsically motivated, meaning they’re driven by the possibility of attention and recognition from others, others intrinsically motivated, meaning they do what they do for their own personal satisfaction.
Not All Awards are Rewarding
While awards can legitimize talent and open doors of opportunity, they can also cause damage. In the school system, for example, some argue that awards systems have been used so extensively as to become meaningless. When kids are continuously given awards just for show-ing up, it creates the illusion that everyone is a winner without any effort. And in the real world, we all know that is far from true.
The majority of us aren’t award winners, and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean we aren’t talented. It doesn’t mean we don’t try hard. And it doesn’t prevent us from doing our best day and in day out.
While recognition is nice, the true honour is in getting to do something that is meaningful. As they say, hard work is its own reward, and it’s an honour just to be nominated.