Recognition Gone Wrong: Black Market Recognition

by Ben Miele

In my role of VP of Sales and Service for Globoforce, I have the pleasure of meeting with HR and organization leaders who are committed to ever-improving their people practices.

Sometimes in these meetings I hear horrifying stories of recognition gone wrong – stories of well intentioned employee recognition, reward and incentive practices that morphed into unintended consequences or applications.

One such recent story I’m calling “Black Market Recognition.” This organization created an employee recognition and reward program in which employees are given tokens to exchange for better parking spots or extra hours off. On the surface, this sounds likee a thoughtful, appropriate reward with little expense to the organizaiton.

In practice, however, a black market for tokens quickly took root. Employees at a higher pay scale regularly buy the tokens from employees at a lower pay scale, for whom the cash has more malue than a preferred parking spot.

The moral of the story – when structuring recognition and reward programs, be sure your employees want the rewards you’re offering. Better yet, give them nearly limitless choice of reward so they are sure to enjoy precisely the item or experience they’ve long wanted.

Do you have a recognition and reward program in your organization? Does it function as planned – or do you have a story of recognition gone wrong?

Want to read more stories of recognition gone wrong? Readers like you shared your stories with us:

* Recognition Gone Wrong: There’s Nobody Here but Me

* Recognition Gone Wrong: What’s Your Name Again?

* Recognition Gone Wrong: Thanks but No Thanks

Derek Irvine, our VP of strategy and consulting and author of the Recognize This! blog, also shared “How Not to Recognize: Mortification Does Not Equal Motivation” on Compensation Cafe.


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