Wednesday, July 14, 2004

When Rewards Go Wrong

Can you offer your employees a reward and have it taken badly? I’ve recently witnessed this. What went wrong?

During the heat of a ‘go-live’ installation of a difficult system upgrade a director felt humbled by all the commitment being shown by the implementation team. As a kind gesture, the director offered a trip to the team to a popular entertainment park. A welcome incentive as morale had already been a little frayed during the latter months of the project.

The implementation did not go well. In fact, truth-be-told, it is still proving to be problematic. The director has since gained composure and in the midst of fending off stakeholders and concerned management has attempted to fulfil his promise. In place of simplicity, the trip was ladened with options and conditions. The reward was no longer genuine and was to become insincere. The trip was delayed. To date: indefinitely.

What went wrong? What should have happened?

The moment was lost and the reward was watered down. If the director had prepared, working on skill and not emotion, he could have had invitations printed and ready to offer. The offer would be concrete and with the onset of emotion, the presentation of the reward, genuine.

A reward should not be complicated and should never be conditional. Treat a reward like cash. Once you hand over the praise, you’ve handed over the cash. If it’s a gift such as a trip to an entertainment park, consider that employees have lives outside of the company; in particular, employees have families. Alternatively, if it is felt that the reward should be focused on team building, then keep it within working hours. If this can potentially strike a jealous cord with spouses and spawn or holds employees back after hours (and away from the dinner table), then do consider a peace-offering for being greedy with their loved ones. After all, personal stresses reflect in the workplace and impact on fellow team members, it’s not surprising that this works visa versa.

Don’t expect anything in return for a reward. You reward for when something has already been done. Be prepared: Know who you are rewarding, what you are rewarding them for and consider their lives outside of the company. Keep the reward and details simple, book it or buy it now. When the time comes, offer the reward with sincerity. The result… is very rewarding!


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  4. Well, first of all, I won't blame the members to have their morale down because of the unfulfilled "reward". The director must have done some things before promising them the "reward" or before even telling his members about this.

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