101 Effective Words to Use in Recognition

August 4, 2022 Darcy Jacobsen

I have an ongoing love affair with words. This earns me a fair amount of teasing from my co-workers because, in my effort to choose an effective word to use in employee recognition, I often grab a 10-cent word or something arcane that no one has used in conversation since 1906. Snickering usually ensues. But I brave it.

I endure it because I know the amazing value of getting the word right. Words have simple, but tremendous power. The right combination can move you to tears or rage. They can diffuse a volatile situation and they can make someone beam with happiness.

Not everyone is as big a word geek as me, though, so I thought I would pull together a list of some terrific words to consider as you compose your own employee recognition messages.

You might also like: 11 Employee Recognition Letter Examples & How to Write Your Own

Sometimes when we need inspiration most, especially to induce employee engagement, we find ourselves unable to come up with anything better than “great” or “excellent”. Below is a list of some powerful words that have been proven to have impact and may be just what you need to give your message life. Consider using them to make your recognition more pithy and effective.

What are the best words to use in recognition?

Let’s start with five core words you should always consider including:

You – According to experts, “you” is the most powerful word in the English language. I reckon the translations of “you” are probably the most powerful words in every other language. Why? It makes things personal and relevant. it gets people’s attention. It also prompts you, as the writer, to really think about the verb that will follow the word “you”.  “You really blew us away with the innovation you showed on the Lewis project, Tom.”

Names – No, not the word “names”, but the name of the person you are talking to. Studies have proven that your brain lights up when it hears your name. I recommend you use names not as a salutation, but in the middle of your message, where it is more personal and less likely to be glossed over. “That was a masterful presentation that you gave on quantum theory, Nate. We were very impressed.”

Because – Because is a great word because it always precedes a proof point. It means you’re backing up what you have to say with specifics—and that makes it more credible and more powerful in prompting repeat behavior. “Mark, because of your effort to build rapport with this client, we were able to save their account.”

Thanks – It’s the classic. But you’d be surprised how few people actually use the word thanks, or thank you. This may be because it puts the speaker in a slightly more vulnerable position, admitting they are indebted. But you ARE indebted. The whole point is to acknowledge it! “Thank you for your unfailing support for new ideas, and your passion for excellence, Tom.”

Results – Using the word results (result, resulting, or something like it) shows that the action your employee undertook had a positive outcome, and that you recognize their hard work in pursuit of that outcome. In social recognition, where peers will see the message, this also lets everyone else know what an effective impact the employee has had. “The result of all of your effort, Nina, was a 25% increase in call volume over the past month.”

And here are 96 other words that I hope might help to inspire you as you write. (Some of them could fit in more than one category.)

Words for Effort
Overcome, succeed, excel, achieve, grasp, generate, develop, design, productive, accomplish, volunteer, produce, discipline, create, resolve, execution, triumph, victory, complete, masterpiece, conquest, initiative, outcome

Words for Quality
Organize, improve, excellence, exceptional, striking, aware, brilliant, elegant, eloquent, intuitive, strong, outstanding, merit, talent, distinction

Words for a Positive Attitude
Thoughtful, responsible, creative, energetic, enthusiastic, resourceful, motivated, dedicated, innovative, reliable, vibrant, wise, flexible, versatile, consistent, considerate, commitment, confidence, imagination, passion, tenacity

Words for Leadership
Capable, oversight, vision, navigate, command, conduct, cutting-edge, star, champion, vanguard, role-model, respect, direction, insight, inspiring, admired, courageous, engaging, enterprising, invincible, masterful

Words for Teamwork
Help, support, benefit, advocate, save, encourage, revive, dependable, reliable, prepared, cooperation, advice, fortify, sponsor

What are some of your favorite words to use in recognition?