I am a big believer in rewards and recognition to keep inspiration alive in the workplace. However, this doesn't mean flaunting unsubstantiated praise on everyone. Recognition is an art and you have to get it right to avoid the mediocrity/ entitlement trap.
As a parent, I am reminded of rewards and consequences. I give regular motivational and inspiring speeches to my son( even though he doesn't understand them) on doing the right thing. Yet in reality, all too often I end up rewarding bad behaviour.
When my son does something I don't like, I find myself giving into him or "bribing" him( with cookies, tv, etc) to stop doing it. This is further reinforcement for him to do it again. I know what I should be doing is setting up consequences and reprimanding bad behavior.
Believe it or not, the same scenerio plays itself out in different ways in our workplaces.
Some examples of rewarding undesireable behaviour:
A difficult employee intimidates others, and inadvertently they get rewarded. As a result, nobody wants to work with them so they aren't included in difficult assignments or asked to do overtime. People are intimidated so they don't interrupt them or ask them questions. People leave them alone, just like they wanted.
(Studies indicate difficult people get better shifts, better assignments and get preferential treatment)
Leadership offers rewards to people who actually show up for work on time or are nice to customers. As a consequence, recognizing mediocrity becomes commonplace and management ends up bargaining with staff to do their job.
Leadership give the difficult employee the best shifts just because they don't want the hassle of hearing them complain.
What come out of this bargaining is decreased dedication and a strong sense of entitlement. Instead of helping an employee become dedicated and self sufficient they become dependent and inspire conflict amoungst the ranks. Instead of sparking initiative they become idle and indulgent.
Giving incentives for mediocrity, or worse bad behavior, is a no- win situation and it invites an avalanche of conflict.
Where are you recognizing mediocrity? Some of my thoughts:
- Never reward or give into employees demands just because you feel you are supposed to ( or because they keep asking)
- Be consistent about how you recognize people. Never give motivational speeches and praise that aren't warranted
- Have clear guidelines on appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.
- Never treat people like they are special or the universe revolves around them, I don't care how good they are. It invites conflict and it isn't an inspiration to others.