Don’t Expect Rewards Just Because I Recognized You

A common problem, and misperception, of some recognized employees, is they believe that afterward, rewards must come their way. Or, perhaps they automatically assume that the recognition received, will guarantee a promotion or a raise at their next performance review. Employees think, “You recognized me so where’s my reward?”

Sometimes it’s the managers and supervisors who hold this attitude. If they think employees have this reward expectation, they often hold back from acknowledging their employees’ work and contributions.

We need to stop this idea that giving people praise and recognition sets employees up for expecting more rewards.

Here are ways for dealing with this employee recognition and rewards dilemma.

Overcoming Rewards Expectation 

Call a spade a spade when this situation is present within a company. Change your people’s incorrect attitudes about recognition and rewards, whether employee or manager. Why does it even happen? It often comes about from relying too much on rewards. Accompanying this is a lack of everyday recognition for employees. So when there is little or no recognition happening then employees will demand rewards.

What to do?

  1. Create a written recognition strategy for your company. Spell out what your company means by recognition and rewards. Declare how you want all employees to use recognition and rewards. Separate out a recognition strategy from a total rewards strategy.
  2. Communicate with your employees about recognition and rewards. Regularly communicate and educate all of your employees about the purpose and meaning of well-given recognition and rewards. Check out employees understanding afterward to know if you did a good job or not.
  3. Define what recognition is and when it occurs. It’s amazing how many people equate recognition and rewards as being one and the same thing. Tell people that they can acknowledge and praise positive effort, behaviors, and contributions, without having to give a reward.
  4. Define what rewards are for people and when they are given. Rewards are only given for consistent positive actions, above and beyond performance, or achieving specific results. They are mostly tangible, monetary, or experiential in nature.
  5. Explain clearly the differences between recognition and rewards. Harvard Business School professor of business, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, stated that “rewards are a right”. This is where you get the philosophy of, “if you do X, then you get Y” – it’s your right to be rewarded if performed as stated. This is a common mantra for rewards and incentives. Moss Kanter also said that recognition is a gift. Note that she did not say recognition is a right. Recognition is freely given to people from the heart and not from the pocketbook.
  6. Set and communicate clear expectations for everyone to give recognition. You express and give recognition to staff for any positive effort and behaviors you observe or that have been reported to you. Encourage all employees to recognize one another for help given and excellent work carried out.
  7. Also, set the expectation for managers to fairly reward employees. Rewards are given for achieving positive results. Supply immediate supervisors and managers with the business rules, criteria, and parameters for all available rewards in their various currency formats. If managers know the criteria for using which rewards for what kind of results – then they will use them judiciously. It is when rewards – like gift cards, points, or tangible gifts – are given willy-nilly and treated as recognition that confusion begins. Provide them with appropriate access to rewards online or designated gift cards for which they are held accountable.
  8. Educate all staff on the benefits of recognition rewards. Teach your employees how to effectively use recognition and rewards through in-class sessions, lunch-and-learn meetings, or through online microlearning. There is too little education on this topic that should make this a priority. Both recognition and rewards are powerful tools when properly understood and used effectively.

It is critical to put recognition ahead of rewards. Recognition comes first as positive things are observed. Rewards happen second when the performance successfully fulfills the reward criteria.

Recognition Reflection: When people expect rewards whenever they’ve been recognized, do you see little or no recognition happening in general?

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