Publish at November 08 2022 Updated November 08 2022

Recognition at work [Thesis].

Work organization, recognition and employee health

"Dankbarkeit und Weizen gedeihen nur auf gutem Boden." German proverb.

"Thankfulness and wheat prosperate only in good soil." This proverb can also be translated as "Wheat and gratitude only grow in good soil". There are subtle differences in the order and choice of words: grow (a utilitarian, productive word) does not have quite the same meaning as prosper (where the dimension of fullness is added).

So, good soil for recognition to flourish can be a business, a family, a country. Sometimes the same person will have a completely different destiny depending on the environment in which they work. Without getting lost in the habit of looking for "greener grass", it can be helpful to go "see if you're there".

The proverb also says that, like wheat, recognition is food that enables an individual to grow. Moreover, the word "dankbarkeit" has a visual and aural proximity to dank arbeit, (grace, thanks, and work) which brings us into a proximity of recognition with a work of gratitude: for the person or structure that does the work of giving, and/or the one that does the work of receiving.

Be seen, known, recognized

In French, when we meditate on the term recognition, we find at least two steps: we re-cognize what is known. An action, a quality, a skill, a person must already be seen, and thereby known, for it to be recognized. To know is "to experience", and when one experiences deeply enough or renewed, one understands (and loves according to the Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh).

For various social reasons, situations or people are invisible. Small hands in a company, essential jobs that we only see when they "manifest" or stop, minorities that overturn a relationship to the world given as conforming. People in a position of power can continue not to see, or they can know, understand and love, and finally fully recognize the existence, the skills and/or the work of the other.

Recognition at work

It is at the place of recognition in work that Maëlezig Bigi's research is placed. This one deals first with the emergence of the question, then with organizational determinants and related expectations, and finally with the role of recognition at work in the construction of employees' health.

"This thesis results from the meeting between an intellectual questioning on the place and meaning of work, a field opportunity and a political issue."

A fieldwork of 180 interviews in France and about 20 days of observations and interviews in Finland, as part of the research program "Work, Meaning, Recognition" (started in 2011), took place.

The fieldwork was supported by a study of data from the EWCS 2010 (European working conditions survey).

Metamorphoses of work and recognition

The questioning around recognition arises in the 1990s, at a time when the structuring of work is recomposed on the individualization of tasks and the development of services:

"What does it mean, then, to contemplate oneself in one's work when it does not endure?

Thus, work is no longer solely an instrumental activity. It is "what enables the material reproduction of society, but also social integration".

"What makes the entry into work through recognition specific is the centrality accorded to the subjectivity of subjects driven by the desire to maintain a positive relationship with themselves-without this being exclusive of any form of instrumental rationality."

Recognition is an ambivalent, plastic notion. It serves both "the unveiling of the pathologies of the contemporary world"while being presented in the managerial literature "as an inexhaustible reservoir of additional commitment."

The effect of occupational collectives

The collective is a condition and a resource for a struggle for recognition to emerge from an occupational situation.

A trade collective or a minimum of professionalism is necessary to "socialize the complaint"and to transform it into a "collective struggle for recognition"as was the 1988 nurses' conflict reported in the dissertation, the cashiers or the mortuary agents.

The sociologist Danièle Linhart notes that "the systematic individualization of employees[is] a fundamental spring of domination". Increasing the possibilities of cooperation is also a way to increase the capacities of recognition.

In addition, the middle and upper social categories "repress suffering less"than the working classes, and they are more able to be received by the media. Pascale Molinier also mentions the "disinterest in the subaltern" which "places political action on the side of the elites".

Engagement in Work

In the 2010s, recognition at work (seen more through the prism of the "cadre") "is part of the history of a subjectivity at work that is exhibited in the new productive model"and its "rarely fulfilled promise of self-exaltation through endless engagement in work".

"The control of recognition indeed suggests the possibility of controlling [the]subjective involvement [of employees]without going through the intermediary of "extrinsic incentives such as bonuses or pay raises.

Under this aspect, the instrumentalization of recognition expectations supports the performance of "new work organizations" without questioning the sharing of the wealth they produce, or the distribution of power. "

Those who have worked in France or who have contacts with French executives have also been able to observe their "overinvestment"Some "throw themselves without measure"into work that is no longer counted, they "advance on the rope of success at the constant risk of disavowal that would ruin their identity".

The work organization does not measure their investment (often executives are "on a day pass"), but neither does it recognize the measured investment of those who moderate their availability.

A cultural commitment

In contrast in Finland, "not counting one's time is no more a sign of the prestige of a social group than a productive necessity" and the relationship to work is more turned towards self-development.

Couples also benefit from a tax modality that does not favor income inequality between partners, and the sharing of daily tasks is more egalitarian.

"Temporal sovereignty is thus something that is constructed at the intersection of law, work organization, and gender norms."

Four Registers of Recognition

Recognition at work is broken down into the following 4 registers:

  1. Activity.
  2. The relationships.
  3. The reward, often the place of the feeling of injustice, it is here that can play "the blurring of the paths of recognition, [which]makes the paths uncertain ".
    The person, also a place of injustice at the level of the "disappointment of the expectations of dignity, equality and the particularities of each one".

Generally, in the Nordic countries, "variations on the registers of reward and personhood can be linked to social models", with a marked emphasis on the usefulness and quality of work.

Finally, at the level of health, "it is when greater participation at the task level improves the sense of recognition that health, in its physical and psychological dimensions, is protected."

Illustration: AllGo - An App For Plus Size People_Unsplash.

To read:

Maëlezig Bigi, Recognition and the organization of work: French and European perspectives. Sociology. Cnam 2016.

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