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Should You Be Rewarded Just for Showing Up?

Should You Be Rewarded Just for Showing Up?

September 09, 2013

Late in life, I went back to school to study something that I knew little about. Being new to the subject, I started near the bottom of my class. Nonetheless, I worked hard to do my best to learn and felt tremendous progress over time. And yet, I stayed at the bottom of the class, amid scholars who had been studying the subject for years. I worked hard, but I didn’t win any awards for being at the bottom of the class… and quite honestly, I didn’t expect any.

There are, however, many people who believe that everyone should receive praise or be rewarded for whatever they do.

As Brad Hams wrote in his 2011 book, Ownership Thinking: How to End Entitlement and Create a Culture of Accountability, Purpose, and Profit, “We continually tell our children that they are performing wonderfully, even if they aren’t. We’ve given them more and more, and required less and less of them.”

Hence the start of what we have today, an entitlement culture. Last week I wrote about employees and how to engage them. Read on to learn about the contrast in thinking between employees and employers, and 5 tips on how to build a stronger, better team.

Thank You for Giving Me the Job - Now Can I Have a Raise?

You can only imagine how many employees now show up the first day feeling entitled to privileges, perks, and promotions. Whatever happened to starting at the bottom and working your way up?

When this nation stopped requiring performance as a condition for keeping a job, getting a raise, or even passing a class in school, we created a widespread attitude of entitlement. And this entitlement destroys motivation, lowers productivity in the long run, and crushes self-esteem.

As a result, we have what I call The Trophy Generation, where people get trophies just for showing up. You finished 15th out of 15… here’s your trophy.

Sorry Seattle: No Lego for You!

There’s a wonderful story, also from Ownership Thinking, about an elementary school in Seattle, Washington, in which students were being asked to build houses with Legos. Sounds like good, clean fun, right?

The problem that emerged within the school was that some students were building much larger, more impressive houses than their counterparts. As a result, the school abandoned the use of Lego because they thought the use of Lego might damage the self-esteem of those who were not particularly creative and ambitious. They also thought Lego was promoting capitalism and private ownership.

Once again, entitlement trumped the idea of being rewarded for success. The result of all this is that students, much like many employees, can stop striving to do better, since they aren’t being recognized for doing so.

As software executive and former NFL star Fran Tarkenton wrote in a column in NewsMax, “The rewards of striving are not seen as worth the massive amounts of effort they require. That attitude is poison to the entrepreneurial spirit.”

Performance-Based Thinking

One way to tame entitlement thinking is to make a shift to a performance-based culture. This is where compensation is tied to performance. It’s really not a new concept; just one that has been watered down nearly to extinction.

Believe it or not, you can actually see this concept at work in reality TV shows such as The Great Food Truck Race, Dancing With the Stars, or America’s Got Talent, where trophies and prizes are given to those who perform the best. It’s what many of us learned in school before Lego was banned for “squelching self-esteem.”

Performance-based thinking inspires people to strive harder and to work for what they achieve. As a result, the self-esteem that we are so busily trying to create by handing out trophies to everyone is much more genuine in those who are rewarded for their accomplishments.

ROWE: Results Only Work Environment

One innovative management strategy is called ROWE, where employees are evaluated on performance, not presence. It’s the brainchild of former Best Buy HR managers Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, and it’s about increasing an organization’s performance while letting people manage the demands of their own lives. With ROWE, employees have complete control over their schedules as long as they perform and complete that which is expected of them.

And according to CBS, it works. Best Buy departments that use ROWE report average productivity increases of 35 percent.

It's Crazy But It's True

There are clear discrepancies between how a business owner is thinking in contrast to the issues that fill an employee's mind on a day-to-day basis. Everyone can blame the recession as to why most business are in trouble, but a quick look at the difference between employer and employee thinking may offer another view as to why businesses are struggling to get by every day.

What do employers and employees really think about?

Employers                 Employees 
  • Cash Flow
  • Risk/Reward
  • Competition
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Growth
  • Employees
  • Supplier relations
  • Sustainability
  • Cost control
  • Future sustainability
  • I trust my team
  • Employee health
  • My paycheck
  • Benefits and healthcare
  • Getting my work done
  • Job security
  • Recognition
  • Time off
  • Do I like it here/environment
  • My boss is a jerk
  • My opportunity for more money and job advancement
  • How much can I use social media on company time?
  • Dress code requirements
  • I deserve a break = soda and donuts

Great Minds Can Think Alike

Notice the disparity between employers and employees? This can happen in a business of any size... and it leads to a dysfunctional workplace, a dissatisfied employer, and disengaged employees. So what can you do? Here's our top 5 list to get your team engaged:

  1. Focus on Results: Streamline work processes to minimize unproductive meetings and activities that waste people’s time and focus on activities that drive results.

  2. Give People Ownership: This provides a reason for employees to focus on the good of the company.

  3. Be Transparent: Let employees know what is expected of them and why.

  4. Lead by Example: If you don’t want your employees thinking they are entitled to spend half their time on their cell phones, put yours down, too.

  5. Acknowledge Success: Use praise and/or rewards to show that hard work DOES pay off.

Would you like to get your team more engaged? Would you like to have them think more like owners and leaders and less like entitled workers? Email me at jongoldman@brandlauncher.com and I'll share with you how you can implement this effectively in your business today. 

Taking you from where you are to where you want to be,


P.S. And, by the way, the answer to last week's 2 Truths and a Lie: The lie was #1 - I was not chased by wild ostriches - at least not yet.