by Ben Miele
Driving to the office today, I heard a news bit on the radio about New York City police officers planting drugs on innocent people in order to meet their arrest quotas.
I can’t think of many other examples of the power of quotas to create unintended consequences and deviant behaviors.
The same principle is true in trying to apply quotas to employee recognition. Many assume there can’t be negative consequences to quotas on a positive thing such as recognition. The answer is simple.
Time and again quota-based recognition programs have the opposite of the desired effect. Instead of encouraging employees to recognize colleagues more often, quotas paralyze employees from giving recognition when its most deserved.
Think about it in this scenario. Each employee is given a quota of five “recognition awards” to give in a quarter. In the second week of the quarter, John sees Mary go far above and beyond to meet a customer’s needs. But John wonders, “That was great! But what if something even better happens and I’ve used up my ‘recognition awards?’ I won’t be able to recognize that person. I’d better wait to make sure I’m using my quota right.”
Then at the end of the quarter, John realizes he hasn’t used any of his quota of recognition awards. He scrambles to find someone – anyone – worthy of recognition for something – anything.
Is that the goal of your recognition program? Or do you want employees to notice the excellent work of those around them and then thank and praise their colleagues in the moment for those efforts?
If the latter, seriously rethink quota-based recognition. Trust your employees to know what is worthy of recognition.