A professional colleague recently shared her story of being summoned to the executive conference room of her employer. Normally such a summons would spark nerves, but she knew something good was about to happen. Laverne* and a teammate, Shirley, had just completed a big project that brought compliments from their client. Laverne was excited and eager to hear from the management who normally attended such meetings.
When she arrived to the conference room, Laverne was greeted by her supervisor. The supervisor’s boss, Lenny, also was there but did not speak to Laverne. The executive spoke to Shirley because they had worked together longer but did not address Laverne upon arrival, while recognizing the accomplishment, or upon their departure.
While bestowing a nominal reward to the pair, Lenny made three crucial errors:
- He never looked at Laverne
- He misstated Laverne’s contributions
- He mocked the dollar amount of the award
When Laverne told me the story, she said it still irked her even though it had happened weeks ago. She said she would not have cared that the write-up was incorrect if the presentation had been kind and sincere.
Management failed to capitalize on the opportunity the situation offered. Lenny could have solidified a bond with a super employee while he enjoyed reminiscing with a long-time coworker, yet he missed it. He could have inspired two superstars to continue their strong performance, yet he did the opposite. He could have motivated two staff members, yet he became a laughingstock as they shared their story with other coworkers. He became a laughingstock and so did the award.
What the company intended as a sincere gesture failed because management did not buy in to it, or was too stressed to execute accurately, or was unable to recognize the real opportunity in front of him. The reward and recognition backfired because of the delivery.
Laverne’s experience is not unique, unfortunately. Many managers treat recognition meetings as intrusions on their day. Here is a video which demonstrates several different bad approaches to reward and recognition meetings:
Real leaders will see reward and recognition meetings as great opportunities to cement employee commitment to the company. Leaders will see the value of the meetings and will treat the recipients of the awards with honor, which will in turn inspire them to keep performing well.
* Names changed