Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 115 – Carrots vs Sticks

Of all the desperate signs by management to promote employee “loyalty” this one has got to top the ones I’ve seen. And no I have no idea what this one or the middle one below mean either, but it’s obvious from the rest of the signs it was meant to be an employee reward for something or other. Where was this travesty? Actually it was at a hotel in Tucson, Arizona where we stayed for 3 nights during our road trip earlier this year. 


I don’t have a problem with rewarding great work per se, but I do have a problem with things like the usual employee of the month award. Normally you get a suitably embarrassing picture stuck on a notice board, but at this place of work you get to park a bit closer to your job – woo hoo.  This kind of award always reminds me of picking teams at school.  It is ok being in the first half of the pick, but it is toe curlingly bad to be last. And when it comes to employee awards it gets worse.

Typically these awards are used as a genuine way of trying to publicly acknowledge great work. But can you imagine being the first recipient, and then listening to the words being said about the last person to receive the “award” – yeah we decided to give the award to Fred this month for not being rude to customers for a whole day this month… way to go Fred.  

I’ve spoken in the past about the way one CEO handled praise. He simply did it personally and in writing. He would hand write thank you notes, but what was even more impactful was his daily habit of walking around the workplace. Needing to get in 10,000 steps a day – he would put on his track shoes, clip on a pedometer and walk. Not only was his office door open, he was openly visible. He would stop and chat and he would notice the hand written notes stuck on notice boards, propped on desks and it gave everyone a reason to smile. He estimated he wrote something like 30,000 notes of encouragement to employees during his 10 years as the CEO of Campbells. 30,000! That is an incredible way of saying to people I value you and what you do.

Compare that to the usual once a year review completed in most organisations the world over. And what do they focus on? The negative, things you need to work on, what you didn’t do right and what you could always do better. How good are you going to feel after coming out of one of those meetings?

I remember getting “told off” for being too friendly to everyone during one performance review I had. The fact that I worked front desk in a large corporate library (amongst other things) staggered me – what you want me to be surly to the people who come in to use our services? Needless to say I didn’t stop my practice regardless of the black mark on my copy book.

Can all organisations, toxic cultures and negative behaviours be dismissed by being positive? It’s an interesting thought.  But consider this, how many people go on sick leave and stress leave because of their working environment? How many people give up and find another job hoping that the next place treated them better?

So – Can you imagine going to work every day and be appreciated and appreciative of the work you and your colleagues do? You see it is a two way street. We all need to offer appreciation for work done by others. But it’s more than that of course. What happens when you smile at someone? More often than not, they return the smile. It is an instant mood enhancer. What would happen instead of whingeing about someone, we found a way of saying something nice about someone “behind their backs” instead.  

As contract employees we hold a unique position in the work force. We go in, we do the job and we come out again. But do you know the ones who are asked for time and time again by employers are those people who not only do their job well, but do it with a genuine smile on their face and have a zest for life and want to share it.  

If I can encourage you to read a little more on the topic of positive psychology, there is a great little book entitled “How full is your bucket? Positive strategies for work and life” by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton. You can also google, Doug Conant – now ex CEO of Campbells to read more about how he turned around not only 1 company, but many with his ability to use positive psychology rather than the usual negative.

And if I can encourage you to find ways to bring positivity to the work you do, the reviews you hold, the rewards you confer and the people you interact with, that would be brilliant. Thank you.