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Reward and Recognition

There is an ongoing debate amongst parenting ‘experts’ regarding the appropriateness of ‘allowance’ for children. Some believe that allowance, is a fair exchange of dollars for services rendered, by those little kiddies occupying the household (i.e. chores). Others are of the mind that chores are a part of any household and because everyone in the family is part that home, everyone should contribute, without a need to be compensated for it.

I’m of a hybrid perspective that an allowance (like a salary) is perfectly reasonable for an assigned set of chore(s). So, for X service(s) rendered, you can expect to receive $X. But along with that ‘salary’, there is an understanding that you will do a great job at your assigned chore. Moreover, as a responsible member of the household, your allowance also assumes that you will contribute your time/effort to things that help the collective good, without the need for additional compensation. Just as you would in a workplace, some responsibilities are assumed, even if they aren’t written in a job description.

I recently asked my son why he didn’t ‘take out all the garbage’, which (of course) was his chore. His response was, “… well I got most of it. “Oh”, I said… “well, I guess you won’t mind being paid most of your allowance”. He didn’t like the sound of that. What was most surprising to me, was the disconnect between my view of a great job equaling $5 and his that something less than a great job could also equal $5. Shouldn’t your salary equate to 100% of your effort? Or does 100% require a reward?

Here is the crux of my concern. I fear that too often managers can get trapped rewarding and recognizing work that was at best, what should have been expected and at worst, something far less. Let me clear, reward and recognition, is an important component of any manager’s success. I believe in it immensely and practice it, religiously.

Quite likely, if you’ve attended a management training program in the past decade, you spent some time learning about the value that staff and leadership alike receive when they employ a reward system in their workplace. I mean, let’s be honest, it makes perfect sense… go ‘above and beyond’ in your work, get praised and/or incentivized. It makes you want to continue delivering at that level. But what happens if ‘going above and beyond’ is no longer the catalyst? By way of example, an attendee at a recent key note, approached me and said, “… it’s gotten so bad, I feel like I have to praise someone who is notoriously late for work, for coming in on time.”

While the story is anecdotal, the fallout from false praise is a real to a company, as the impact of leaders who never praise at all. As with many great intentions, sometimes, the original intent gets lost or muddied. As managers, we should always be mindful that when a concept such as reward and recognition, becomes so ubiquitous that it is expected, it serves no one.

In the end, my son took out all the trash, because that was the expectation. He earned an “atta’ boy”, when he went and wheeled in the neighbours bins later in the day.

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