The conventional perspective on positive reinforcement (words like recognize, acknowledge, compliment, reward are incorrectly uses as synonyms for positive reinforcement) is that you approach someone with a piece of positive information about something they have done and say, “John, you really did some good work on that job.”
It sounds great but unfortunately does not take into consideration the reality of the workplace. A manager or supervisor who has a history of being negative or has spent no time getting to know the employee such that they have no relationship, can create a negative employee reaction. The statement seems contrived and manipulative; that is, it is perceived to be provided with the objective of wanting something additional from the employee. At best it is perceived to express an underlying agenda. Often these kind of statements contradict the employees own sense of self-worth.