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Massage Today
February, 2003, Vol. 03, Issue 02

The Importance of Recognition

By Cliff Korn, BS, LMT, NCTMB

I was pleased to attend an event recently at which a massage therapist was recognized by her peers for special service and achievement. As a profession, we don't recognize ourselves enough for the work we do or the impact we have on society.

Recognition stimulates professional pride - and not just for those being recognized. I discovered this firsthand, as I noticed myself swelling with pride at the accomplishments of a woman I'd never even met before!

I found myself wishing the ceremony was being televised, or being covered in media outlets broader than trade publications such as this one. Public recognition advances the prestige of the profession. The public would have benefited from witnessing this particular event.

I realize the average massage therapist or bodyworker doesn't go to work each day motivated by the public recognition he or she receives; but I don't think I've ever met anyone who didn't appreciate a "thank you" for a job well-done. We can use this observation to make our own practices better places to earn a living. The business community has utilized it for quite some time to stimulate employee productivity. Most successful companies have awards and recognition programs. Some are as simple as an employee-of-the-month parking spot, and others offer significant money as bonuses or added incentive commission. The programs can encourage company loyalty and add stability to the respective professions, by including requisites for company longevity as part of merit recognition criteria.

I'm sure many of us do this in our own group practices, if we are in managerial capacities. It's the small things that count. Small gifts that symbolize your appreciation can have a surprising impact on therapist satisfaction and performance, carrying more weight even than cold cash.

Even if you have a facility large enough to provide a big budget for recognition programs, cash is rarely the best motivator, says Andrew Perlmutter, co-founder of InMarketing Group, an incentive company in Mahwah, New Jersey.

"You never want to confuse recognition with compensation." When you pay people for doing a good job, it becomes part of their salary expectations." A gift, however - whether it's a trip to Cancun or a coffee mug - is a luxury separate from compensation that shows respect and commends accomplishment. "Buying an employee dinner for two may only cost you $40, but the acknowledgment of a job well done has significant value," according to Perlmutter.

If your budget is limited, inexpensive gifts delivered with fanfare may be just the push you need to improve performance. "If you create a recognition program that is fun and makes a big deal of successes, people will get excited about it," says Pat Zingheim, co-founder of Schuster-Zingheim and Associates, Inc., a pay and reward consulting firm in Los Angeles. It doesn't have to be about the value of the gift; it's about the celebration and recognition that go with it. It shows those you wish to recognize that you appreciate them, and gives them a symbol of that recognition.

Giving gifts instead of cash as incentives can also help independent contractors or employees set physical goals for improved results on the job. For example, says Perlmutter, a 25-percent increase in sales is a nebulous aim, even if a monetary commission is attached to it, but a goal of winning a family trip or a new set of golf clubs is something employees can visualize. "It helps them paint a picture of their goals and what they need to do to accomplish them."

Recognition may be easily achieved in the workplace, but it is decidedly more difficult to maintain meaningful public recognition programs in our profession. Outside of the professional associations, such programs are virtually nonexistent. I suggest we will all be better served if we actively search for ways to honor our own in a public way. Let's be creative and persistent in doing so! If you're in a Chamber of Commerce, why not nominate a therapist business owner as the "business person of the year" or whatever title your organization uses to recognize achievement. If you do a good job with the write-up, it might actually be a massage therapist who gets his or her name and picture in the newspaper, instead of a banker or car dealer.

I think what we do is important, and we need more people to become aware of it. Public recognition can do that for us!

Thanks for listening!

Massage Today encourages letters to the editor to discuss matters relating to the publication's content. Letters may be published in a future issue of Massage Today. Please send all correspondence by e-mail to , or by regular mail to the address listed below:

Massage Today
P.O. Box 4139
Huntington Beach, CA 92605

Former editor of Massage Today, Cliff is owner of Windham Health Center Neuromuscular Therapy LLC. He is nationally certified in therapeutic massage & bodywork and is licensed as a massage therapist by the states of New Hampshire and Florida. Cliff is a member of the International Association of Healthcare Practitioners; a professional member and past president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association; a certified member of the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, Inc.; and a past chairman of the board of directors of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.


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