Eleanor Valentine and Gary Yardley do basically the same job in an engineering company. They are both designers working on the same project and the Vice President has just made an announcement that special bonuses will be paid to employees making the best contribution in their field of expertise. The problem is, it’s difficult to differentiate between Elly’s work and Gary’s work because they interact so closely.
This example demonstrates a few things about reward and recognition that can cause tempers to become frayed and relationships within the workplace to deteriorate. Unless these factors are properly dealt with, any reward and recognition system is potentially doomed to be a management plaything with no effect on performance and motivation or it will become an officially sanctioned method to extort money from the business.
Firstly, to judge whether a job is well done, both the supervisors and the staff need to understand what the job really is, whose job it was in the first place and whether it needed to be done at all. After all, when we talk about the performance of machines we focus on the important and relevant outputs. A performance automobile, for example, accelerates for 0 to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds and brakes from 60 to 0 in 120 feet; if it also produces cappuccino and cookies that’s kind of incidental and not a normal measure of performance.
Unfortunately, when it comes to people, the outputs that you expect are never as simple. Of course Salesmen produce sales, Engineers design products, Accountants manage the money and Human Resources supply skilled people but;
don’t Salesmen help to prevent bad debt getting worse?
don’t Engineers help to identify new skill requirements?
don’t Accountants smooth the sales process through efficient billing?
don’t Human Resources also upgrade the skills of Engineers through training?
The performance of people is such a broad ranging portfolio of skills, capabilities and competencies that it is often necessary to define the boundaries of a job really clearly to make sure that people know what their core accountabilities are. It is more common than you think that people find elements of another job really attractive, so they modify their job accordingly; adding the attractive elements and taking the credit for the results they achieve.
Performance as seen by managers
One must never generalize about managers as a breed; however they can be guilty of some worrying tendencies when considering performance. For example, they don’t always see the gaps in continuity. Employees in larger organizations are highly adept at moving the focus of attention away from areas of underperformance when they know that the gaze of management is upon them. A thorough manager (they do exist!) will review every aspect of the job before making a judgment about performance.
Elly and Gary solved the problem for themselves by agreeing to share any bonus that came their way but they were still left feeling that the bonus system was, somehow, badly designed.