Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Rewarding Work

The Man and I had a discussion last night about how to honor someone for their work.  We realized there are different views about and approaches to rewarding an employee or helpful person.

My thoughts drifted back to former bosses and how I've been thanked for doing a good job on a difficult project or task outside of my normal duties.  I had one boss that never did anything to thank me.  That was fine, I guess, as at least I knew not to expect anything.  I had one boss offer me a cookie for a job well done (yeah, he literally said to me "oh good girl, do you want a cookie?" and handed me a cookie--and he thought this was appropriate).  That was more demoralizing than being ignored.  I have had bosses that want to take me out to lunch on "Administrative Professionals' Day," or whatever it is they're calling slave labor now.  It always struck me as poor way to show thanks to an employee, feeding them lunch.  One, perhaps lunch on the boss made sense decades or centuries ago, but shouldn't an employer pay wages enough that the employee can feed himself?  Two, if the boss pays for lunch, isn't the employee beholden to thank the boss?  Doesn't that sound weird to you?  "I'll take you out to lunch to show off how much more I make than you, and you also need to be thankful for it."  Really, the boss gets credit for taking the employee out, and the employee still gets no extra credit for doing his job in the first place.

The Man asked if it would be appropriate to publicly thank a person and honor them with a ceremony or plaque or trophy.  He seemed to like the idea, and figured others would too.  I thought about it and disagreed.  Publicly thanking someone doesn't give him any more credit than feeding him lunch.  If the boss calls Sam to the front of the room to thank him and demands a round of applause from all of the other employees, it feels like the boss is saying "look how great I am, rewarding someone with clapping! see how great we are for clapping! clap clap clap! now Sam will feel all better about the five nights of missed sleep, zero family time this month, and his brand new stomach ulcer from all the stress we cause him! more clapping!" (Meanwhile, all of the other employees now secretly despise Sam for attracting attention to himself and making them look bad, determine to get even by making his work life miserable, and Sam starts looking for a new place to work a few months later.)

What if, instead of publicly humiliating a person, the boss or friend or parent actually thanks the employee or helpful person personally.  Rather than demonstrating superiority or benevolence, the beneficiary of hard work says "Thank you."  If my bosses were to come to me privately with "we understand how difficult that project was and how much time and effort you put into making the outcome exceptional, and we thank you," I'd drop my jaw.  Wow.  No dramatic (and awkward) lunches, no cookies, no gifts necessary.  Or if The Man says to me after a homemade meal, "thanks, dear, for making dinner tonight.  I know you didn't want to cook tonight, but it was very good," I'd definitely keel over.  If this sort of praise happened every time I did something above and beyond, I might actually feel compelled to go above and beyond more often.

I realize that having pride in one's work is something that has to come from within, but being recognized by others is something I think we can all get on board with, right?

I'm not sure The Man agrees with me about how to best reward someone for a job well done.  How do you prefer to be rewarded?  How do you prefer to reward those who help you?

1 comment:

Dr. Weirdbeard said...

That's one way of looking at it. The other way is that the boss isn't handing out an award to gather more prestige, but an honest showing of praise and focus on the individual for stand out effort. It also shows others how much the boss values his employees.
From my current job, the executives give many ways of showing thanks. First, we have an annual party, where everyone is treated to a catered dinner. This celebrates all employees for a job well done, and we do a slideshow highlighting the group efforts over the year. During the dinner, we also have a president's award, where outstanding individuals are given a plaque and a trip to somewhere like Hawaii. Although you may not win, you feel good for your coworker who is being recognized for their outside-of-the-norm efforts. I often think, "Hell yeah, that person worked their tail off, good on them for winning. It's great working for people who recognize effort and reward it."
Another way I've been shown gratitude is by taking on fun projects. Even though I know my boss could do it and would have fun, he's passed jobs off to me to fly to other states or traveled off to resorts for multi-day customer presentations, which involve both work and some play.
Finally, I get small affirmations from the COO. When we are in meetings with consultants, he often introduces me as 'our go-to guy for system X', or will highlight some of my work that has had meaningful impact on the company. He introduces it in such an offhand way as if it were commonplace for me to do amazing things. "Yeah, I'd like to introduce our employee. He just built a program that saved the company a hojillion dollars this week because he was bored. He'll be heading up the tech side of this conversation. OK, let's start the meeting."
It really comes down to the job culture, the presentation, and the interpretation from the employee. I want to know I'm doing a good job, and I want others to know they are doing a good job, so in the end we all realize what an incredible team of people we are.