The dark side of recognition continues with this next secret, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Time and managers make or break your culture-building, but they aren’t the only thing that makes your culture-building process stop. The experts don’t talk about popularity contests. Your employees are nominating their coworkers, but are they nominating for the right reasons? You need to vet your nominations and take away any personal bias so all employees have a fair shot at winning an award.
We learned this the hard way. One of our employees showed up with stickers and buttons saying “Vote for Me,” and we misinterpreted this as zeal for our movement. It looked like genuine interest when it was actually just an adult-sized popularity contest.
I am not kidding. This former employee actually handed out stickers that said “Vote for Me!” The crazy thing? His co-workers did vote for him; ultimately he won a couple of awards. Because we didn’t see this as a big deal, we didn’t nip it in the bud, and the ploy worked.
Over time, our employees perceived that our program was nothing more than a popularity contest. Its effectiveness dropped, we lost inertia, and our culture suffered. Skepticism became evident again, and we took a few steps backward.
In order to make sure your recognition program is a success, you need to make sure each nomination is an appropriate nomination. Does the nomination fit the criteria you have set for your recognition program? If not, it’s not a nomination that should be considered. Your managers will need to coach their employees on what a good nomination is.
You also need to make sure that winners aren’t selected just because they have the most “votes.” You may have employees who are handing out “Vote For Me” stickers or bribing their coworkers with treats. Ask yourself: do those employees really deserve your recognition? Not at my company!
Remember one important thing: popularity contests ruin recognition.
Are popularity contests the only thing that ruin recognition programs? Definitely not. I have two more secrets to share with you so you can make the most of your program.