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.

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.