Here’s What to Do if You Want Employees to Quit on the Spot

I’ve been having an interesting email discussion with a UK doctoral candidate whose thesis is focused on qualitative recognition and reward program research, especially on “recognition gone wrong.”

As part of that discussion, she shared with me this story:

For instance, in an organisation I studied recently, recognition was being used to ‘soften the blow’ of a disappointing pay review and was actually undermining the relationship between manager and employee it was intended to support.”

I’ve heard horrifying stories of recognition gone wrong (like giving an iPod to a deaf guy or mispronouncing/misspelling the name of the recognition recipient at a major awards function), but this story takes bad recognition practices to a new low.

Never mix recognition and compensation

Why is this so bad? Aside from the fallout of a destroyed relationship between manager and employee, this practice violates Rule #1 of strategic employee recognition – Never muddle compensation and recognition.

Employees must be paid appropriately for the work they do. If they are not appropriately compensated, then no amount of recognition will help them feel valued and necessary contributors to the organization’s success.

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Pay people what they are worth (fair market value) for the job they do. Recognize them when they go above and beyond, living your core values in their daily work and giving discretionary effort.

What’s the worst “recognition gone wrong” story you’ve ever heard (or experienced)?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at


2 Comments on “Here’s What to Do if You Want Employees to Quit on the Spot

  1. The connection of “Recognition” to a budget causes some… amusing, for lack of a better word, fallout.  It implies that recognition is a finite resource.  

    People get recognized long after the fact/act because the budget was already met for the time period in which they went above and beyond.  
    We weigh one thing deserving of recognition against another, because we gave this person XYZ for doing this so we have to give that person ZYX for doing that.

    Thing is, “Thank you so much, you really helped immensely” would suffice most of the time… as long as it’s genuine, and not devalued by overuse.  I know people who “Thank” so much, it’s become just expected for doing anything.  It’s a negative reinforcement tool (when they DON’T thank you, you notice it… but when they do, thats normal)

  2. I’m confused…  As far as I can tell Globoforce’s approach does exactly what this page advises against!  It uses monetary sums for recognition which its clients (at least the one I work for) use instead of appropriate pay reviews.

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