1) Fake Praise Goblin
This goblin looks good at first, enticing you with superficial pretty words and phrases. But when you dig a little deeper, you discover nothing but poor intentions. Fake praise takes many forms, including the compliment sandwich that often sounds something like: “Great job on the MacGuffin project, but you could have done better with the primary deliverable. You do good work, so I’m confident you’ll do better next time.” Such fake praise only confuses the recipient, who is left wondering if they did a good job or not.
Other fake praise goblins include casual, passing “Thanks!” with no specifics around what you’re thanking the person for and praise followed by an “ask.”
Strip off the mask – Don’t let this goblin ruin your company culture and positive work environment. Make sure the praise you give is specific and detailed so the recipient understands fully why they’re being recognized and what they should do more of in the future. Keep your praise separate from requests or constructive criticism so employees can enjoy the celebration of their achievement without the cloud of more deliverables or expectations to come.
2) Limited Participation Goblin
Too often, I hear about organizations permitting recognition and reward programs for certain segments of employees (e.g., sales, corporate office only) or worse, launching a pilot program at headquarters and promising to eventually roll out the new recognition program to all employees everywhere. To those on the “inside team” this isn’t a goblin at all! They get to participate, recognizing and rewarding each other for their good work. For those on the outside, however, they are left feeling like second-class citizens. Worse yet is telling most employees you don’t trust them enough to recognize each other, and that’s a manager privilege only.
Strip off the mask – If your goal is to create a culture of recognition and appreciation across your organization, then empower all employees (regardless of location, level or group) to recognize and reward each other from day one. Tell everyone the goal is to “catch someone doing something good” and turn them loose. You’ll be surprised how quickly this goblin turns into a gem.
3) Inappropriate Rewards Goblin
I’ve written several posts on Compensation Café and elsewhere on this particular goblin, relating stories of iPods given to deaf employees, forced dancing as a reward, self-congratulations, and rewards so bad you have to tie employees down to give it to them.
Strip off the mask – Always remember, just because you think something is a great reward doesn’t mean others will see it the same way. If you’re going to offer a truly strategic employee recognition and rewards program, then let the employees choose the rewards for themselves. That way, you’ll never have to worry about giving a vegan a gift card to a steakhouse.
What other goblins of employee recognition gone wrong have you seen or experienced?
As Globoforce’s Head of Strategic Consulting, Derek Irvine is an internationally minded management professional with over 20 years of experience helping global companies set a higher ambition for global strategic employee recognition, leading workshops, strategy meetings and industry sessions around the world. His articles on fostering and managing a culture of appreciation through strategic recognition have been published in Businessweek, Workspan and HR Management. Derek splits his time between Dublin and Boston. Follow Derek on Twitter at @DerekIrvine.