Recognise This! – Trying to use recognition as compensation will not only fail, it will confuse and possibly anger the people you are trying to “recognise.”

I’ve been having an interesting email discussion with a researcher who is focused on looking at recognition and reward programs from a qualitative perspective, especially on “recognition gone wrong.” As part of that discussion, she shared with me this story:

“For instance, in an organisation I studied recently, recognition was being used to ‘soften the blow’ of a disappointing pay review and was actually undermining the relationship between manager and employee it was intended to support.”

I’ve heard horrifying stories of recognition gone wrong (like giving an iPod to a deaf guy or mispronouncing/misspelling the name of the recognition recipient at a major awards function), but this story takes bad recognition practices to a new low.

Why is this so bad? Aside from the fallout of a destroyed relationship between manager and employee, this practice violates Rule #1 of strategic employee recognition – Never muddle compensation and recognition.

Employees must be paid appropriately for the work they do. If they are not appropriately compensated, then no amount of recognition will help them feel valued and necessary contributors to the organisation’s success.

Pay people what they are worth (fair market value) for the job they do. Recognise them when they go above and beyond, living your core values in their daily work and giving discretionary effort.

What’s the worst “recognition gone wrong” story you’ve ever heard (or experienced)?