Why Your Reward System For Employees Can Fail Badly

by Mar 6, 2024

Last week marked the celebration of Employee Appreciation Day! During this special time, many companies express their gratitude to their workforce, and one common way they do it is by giving out rewards. 

Reward systems are a crucial aspect of employee motivation and engagement in any organization. However, when implemented incorrectly, they can lead not only to a lack of improvement in employee performance but can also actively demotivate and create an unhealthy workplace environment

According to research by Quantum Workplace, only 35% of employees receive regular recognition, with half of them seeking more acknowledgment. Even managers crave recognition, emphasizing the universal need to feel valued within the organization.

Is your current way of rewarding employees something they really appreciate, or is it just something done as a routine without much meaning? 


Why Employee Reward Systems Might Fail

Some of your team, despite being well-compensated, may not be reaching their full potential. Now here’s why:


Rewarding the Wrong Behaviors

Sometimes, companies get so caught up in chasing after numbers and achievements that they forget about people and their actions.

Here’s an example, let’s name this department leader, Sadie. She has an exceptional track record of driving profits, meeting targets, and ensuring the company’s bottom line consistently exceeded expectations, so the company rewarded her with a promotion.

However, her leadership style was anything but conventional. She often employed aggressive communication, belittling subordinates and dismissing alternative viewpoints without consideration.

Sure, Sadie’s results are super impressive, but her way of leading has serious consequences for her team’s wellbeing. The management knows about this but instead of correcting the behavior, they reward it. 

Read this ebook to learn how organizations can put a stop to this behavior.


Unclear Communication About Rewards

If employees aren’t completely aware of how the rewards system works, they cannot align their actions with the desired outcomes that would qualify them for recognition. 

This often results in confusion and frustration among staff, who may feel their efforts are overlooked or undervalued. Open communication helps to build trust and credibility in the reward system, ensuring that employees feel confident in its fairness and equity. 

That’s why our course, Communicating Employee Rewards, helps you understand the value of a strong communication plan and assess shortcomings in your current communication of rewards. 


Lack of Alignment with Organizational Values 

When rewards are not tied to desired behaviors or performance metrics that align with the company’s goals, employees may perceive them as arbitrary or unfair. This disconnect can lead to disengagement and resentment rather than motivation and loyalty.

Rewards should encourage behaviors and successes that help the company reach its mission and align with your core values. That way, employees are inspired to work on things that benefit the entire company.


Failure to Adapt and Evolve Reward Systems

Without ongoing reassessment and refinement, reward systems become outdated and lose effectiveness in addressing changing organizational needs and employee expectations. 

What works today may not be effective tomorrow, and organizations must be willing to reassess and refine their reward strategies to ensure ongoing relevance and effectiveness.


In Conclusion,

Employee appreciation is a continuous process that should be executed year-round, not just on a specific day. Aside from the tips mentioned above, employees thrive on feedback and acknowledgment of their contributions. 

Whether it’s a simple thank-you message from a supervisor or a formal award ceremony, consistent recognition helps employees feel valued and appreciated for their efforts.

Collaborate, communicate, and foster a healthy work environment through our training programs specifically tailored for your organizations. 

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!



The Civility Partners Team

Many organizations ignore employee engagement because it feels elusive and expensive. Rather than getting caught up in the fear and doing nothing, download our eBook on employee engagement, and get started.


About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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