Give rewards & recognition a 'fair' chance
92 per cent of senior business executives have seen favouritism at play in employee promotions, including at their own companies
Fairness in rewarding and recognising employees for their contribution holds the key to productivity and employee morale
It is the last few days before the financial year 2012-13 draws to close. At the workplace there are talks about rewards, recognition and yes the often repeated appraisal. There is inherently nothing wrong with either of these. However from an organisational perspective a more loaded question is, “Are employees being rewarded fairly for their efforts?” What is more important here is not whether the organisation (read management) believes that employees have been rewarded fairly but whether employees think they have been rewarded fairly or not. What if the entire process of reward and recognition is unjust – does it impact the organisational fabric? A number of research points out that reward and recognition programs effect employee motivation and productivity. As a matter of fact employee rewards and recognition are positively correlated with the motivation and productivity. It is specifically herein that the fairness (as opposed to injustice and favouritism) component in rewards and recognition arises.
Off the record chit chat with friends did give me reasons to believe that the reward and recognition process is not entirely just and fair; yet I had every reason to believe that not all is bad, until I read this story. False Glory and its subsequent telecast on CNNIBN is a clarion call on the need to revisit the finer nuances of fair reward and recognition and its impact of employee morale / motivation. The story dwells on how a senior CRPF officer, a senior Indian Police Service officer and an inspector connived to get themselves nominated for the prestigious President’s Police Medal for Gallantry (PPMG), while sidelining two brave soldiers who were the real heroes. All this while there is clear evidence to suggest that the senior IPS officer and the inspector did nothing to deserve the award. The story goes on to state that, “the injustice went unopposed for about a year, the overlooked jawans did not raise an objection. They were resigned to their fate, telling themselves that this was how the system worked. They stayed on in the force, but their morale fell. On crucial operations, they lost their will to take any initiative. It affected the morale of other jawans as well.”
The question then is – does the same happen in organisations too? Well seen from an organisational perspective, this perhaps is not a new phenomenon. It’s no secret that the playing field among workers isn’t level in most workplaces. Favoritism and taking undue credit of good works done by juniors is perhaps not new. A survey conducted by Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business found that 92 per cent of senior business executives have seen favouritism at play in employee promotions, including at their own companies (84 per cent). About a quarter of the polled executives admitted to practicing favouritism themselves.
But how does such behaviour impact an organisation and its employees? The fact is that employees who don’t feel they are fairly rewarded are likely to become de-motivated to perform, frustrated, resentful and seek to leave the organisation at the first opportunity. True that with the current economy, this may not happen right away, but while these employees may stick to their current jobs, they will not put forth their best of efforts towards achieving organisational goals. Also, by focusing attention on particular employees, it’s easy to overlook growth opportunities and unique skill sets offered by others. If the yardstick for success has nothing to do with performance then there’s every chance that the organisation may lose good people, if they feel their talents are going unnoticed.
What is the way out? Simply put, managers (or those assigned with the task) must be sincere (and not be manipulative – as in the story above) in deciding as to who should be rewarded and for what. While it makes sense to gather accurate details in highlighting performance and avoiding insincerity in work, it is equally important to figure out who is the actual performer. There may be situations where people are getting recognised for a work done by some other person. It is important to get beneath the surface and identify who has actually performed the job and recognise their effort. This would prevent unfair treatment being meted out to unrecognised employee.