Author: Brant Dolan

Brant has compiled more than 25 years’ successful experience in the incentive, rewards & recognition industry. He is well-versed in the content, context and best practices to design and ensure effective and memorable programs. Brant currently represents QIC on the Incentive Marketing Association’s Incentive and Engagement Solution Providers Council and has been a speaker and workshop presenter at various industry events.

Why Just O.K. is Not O.K.


I’ve been noticing some television commercials that play off this mantra. This very clever campaign uses various consumer settings to highlight the fact that one would never tolerate “just O.K.”, especially from their cellular provider.

It caused me to think about how employees may feel and what they think about their companies, their jobs, and their daily responsibilities.  “It’s O.K., the money is O.K., it’s just O.K.” might be typical responses when asked.  

CEO’s, CFO’s, HR leaders take heed.   We all know payroll is one of, if not your biggest expense. Often your hands are tied, and just remaining competitive is an ongoing challenge. So how do you counter?  What’s your strategy?

Research has shown that employees will say “It’s just O.K.” primarily because they don’t feel respected, valued, appreciated, worthy of communication, or privy to collaboration.  They’ll be the first to tell you, the money isn’t everything!  But if the money is “just O.K.”, and you are not doing anything to recognize them and demonstrate appreciation you are vulnerable.  

Forward thinking leaders know they may not always be able to offer the highest salaries in their space.  They understand that there is an alternative to offset the lack of “psychological income” employees long for. A well-designed recognition and rewards program can counter the “it’s just O.K.” mentality. Often with less expense and a greater return.

If you find yourself or your employees referring to your company as an “O.K. employer” remember, “Just O.K. is not O.K.”  The consequence is added cost.

By the way, in case you’re interested, it was back on March 23, 1839 when the initials “O.K.” were first published in the Boston Morning Post.  If you think the initials used today for texting shorthand are anything new, check out this “Day in History” article on the History Channel website.

According to American linguist Allen Walker Read:

During the late 1830s, it was a favorite practice among younger, educated circles to misspell words intentionally, then abbreviate them and use them as slang when talking to one another. Just as teenagers today have their own slang based on distortions of common words, the “in crowd” of the 1830s had a whole host of slang terms they abbreviated. Popular abbreviations included “KY” for “No use” (“know yuse”), “KG” for “No go” (“Know go”), and “OW” for all right (“oll wright”).

O.K. was originally meant as an abbreviation for “oll correct,” a popular slang misspelling of “all correct” at the time.  Over time, O.K. steadily made its way into the everyday speech of Americans. 

As the article points out, “O.K.” has become one of the most ubiquitous terms in the world, and certainly one of America’s greatest lingual exports.