Don showed up at 11:40, on the dot. No surprise there. "Ready?" he asked. Staring intently at her screen, Pat replied, "Yeah, just have to save this, one sec." She did, and then threw on her jacket and off they went to lunch. Lunch seemed so inadequate, she thought, after Don had basically saved the company from a horrible end. She'd been over this in her mind for weeks, finally hitting on lunch. What else could she do? Give him one of those $50 Amazon gift certificates that the guidelines allowed? That would have been demoralizing for them both.
Perhaps you've been there. Some people in your organization have done really outstanding work. You want to recognize that work, but the budget is so small or the guidelines so miserly that anything you could do would be insulting. What can you do when people do really outstanding work? Express your genuine appreciation and trust — person-to-person, heart-to-heart. Remarking on outstanding performance is the basis of other public recognitions, such as the Oscars or military medals.
Paradoxically, a big budget for rewards is a liability — it tempts you to reward with money or resources, which can depress performance. This happens, in part, because rewards of evident value carry with them two messages that you cannot control.Rewards of evident value
of their values.
We can't help but
make a meaning of
the size of the reward.
- Personal barriers
- The expression "please accept this token of our esteem" is so worn that we barely grasp its literal meaning. Instead of your esteem, you're offering a token — a placeholder, a barrier between yourself and the recipient.
- The value of the reward is significant
- Rewards of evident value invite comparisons of their values. We can't help but make a meaning of the size of the reward, usually related to the depth of the appreciation. Unless each reward is greater than the last, you risk being seen as less appreciative than you really are.
As an alternative, consider honoring the outstanding performance by expressing your appreciation and offering your trust. Express your appreciation and gratitude publicly at a ceremony with everyone in attendance.
Offer your trust by offering more responsibility and greater challenges. For example, Pat can say, "Don, I really appreciate what you did on the Metronome project — the whole company does. You did such great work, I wonder if you would want to consider taking on Daffodil."
By giving the outstanding performer an opportunity — a choice — to demonstrate further outstanding performance, you give both the performer and the organization opportunities to achieve together.
By expressing publicly your appreciation and gratitude, you give a reward that no one else can give. And you give yourself a gift too — the knowledge that the success of your organization is due not only to your own abilities, but to the achievements of everyone in it. Top Next Issue
For an extensive study of the depressive effects of rewards, see Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993. Order from Amazon.com.
For more about Trust, see "Creating Trust," Point Lookout for January 21, 2009, "TINOs: Teams in Name Only," Point Lookout for March 19, 2008 and "The High Cost of Low Trust: I," Point Lookout for April 19, 2006.
The article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenJxIvzYwIGTfqEqQBner@ChacpPHwZXXERucSaTeRoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Don't Worry, Anticipate!
- Dramatic changes in policy or procedure are often challenging, especially when they have some boneheaded
components. But by accepting them, by anticipating what you can, and by applying Pareto's principle,
you can usually find a safe path that suits you.
- Most of us follow paths through our careers, or through life. We get nervous when we're off the path.
We feel better when we're doing what everyone else is doing. But is that sensible?
- Working Journals
- Keeping a journal about your work can change how you work. You can record why you did what you did,
and why you didn't do what you didn't. You can record what you saw and what you only thought you saw.
And when you read the older entries, you can see patterns you might never have noticed any other way.
- This Is the Only Job
- You have a job. Even though you liked it once, those days are long past, and a return is improbable.
If you could, you'd hop to another job immediately, but economic conditions in your field make that
unlikely. How can you deal with this misery?
- You Might Be Stressed If…
- A little stress once in a while keeps us sharp, but chronic intense stress shortens lives. Stress can
build gradually, out of our awareness. Here are some indicators of chronic intense stress.
See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 21: The Ultimate Attribution Error at Work
- When we attribute the behavior of members of groups to some cause, either personal or situational, we tend to make systematic errors. Those errors can be expensive and avoidable. Available here and by RSS on February 21.
- And on February 28: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: I
- Briefly, when people exhibit narcissistic behavior they're engaging in activity that systematically places their own interests and welfare ahead of the interests and welfare of anyone or anything else. It's behavior that threatens the welfare of the organization and everyone employed there. Available here and by RSS on February 28.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrengxUcfRJpcqGkRmqCner@ChacDwpBZgWEinkGjJlIoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
- Your stuff is brilliant! Thank you!
- You and Scott Adams both secretly work here, right?
- I really enjoy my weekly newsletters. I appreciate the quick read.
- A sort of Dr. Phil for Management!
- …extremely accurate, inspiring and applicable to day-to-day … invaluable.