Proper employee engagement is critical; sometimes conventional methods need to be re-examined to ensure the right effect.
While surveying the employees of one of the top luxury hotel firms in the world, I met Rose, a delightful lady.
Rose was in a focus group I held with some of the hotel employees. I asked her how many times she’d been positively reinforced for something done well during her three years of employment at the hotel.
Her eyes narrowed as she searched her memory.
“Only once, when I was voted ‘Best Customer Service Employee-of-the-Year,’” she replied.
“Why?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she mused. “They never told me. Maybe it was a survey or something? But the worst part was how they surprised me in front of my peers and told them I was the best, and they weren’t. Now two of those ladies won’t speak to me.”
Rose concluded: “It was the worst day of my life!” I call this syndrome “Why them? Why not me?”
Rose was singled out for praise at the expense of her coworkers. So they singled her out for punishment. In Australia and New Zealand they describe this as the “Tall Poppy” syndrome, meaning that the tallest poppy in the bunch inevitably gets cut down to size.
For this very reason, and others, Employee of the Month programs are bad news. Any time you pit one employee against all the others, you have a recipe for disaster. Nobody wants to be seen as the “teacher’s pet.” To make matters worse, publicly recognizing individuals in front of their peers is a surefire way to erode workplace morale and team spirit.
I have two daughters: Daphne and Carli.
What if I pop in one day from a business trip and line them up and say, “Hey Carli, give Daphne a round of applause, ’cause she’s Daughter-of-the-Month, and you’re not.”
How’s that going to go over?
That’s precisely what we do with our employees through Employee-of-the-Month programs and other dumb ideas.