by Chris Herrmann
Toby Miller is your picture of an all round good guy. He doesn't even consider himself to be much of a star but he does enjoy going to work and he enjoys mixing with his co-workers, making sure that they all smile at least once a day. Of course he does what's necessary to get results but, under normal circumstances, he usually slips under the recognition awards radar that sweeps through the department once a month.
Many reward and recognition systems have incorporated a "wooden spoon" award in the past. The purpose of this was to highlight poor performance in the mistaken belief that it would, somehow, act as a deterrent to people. They were supposed to look upon the wooden spoon as a shameful emblem that they would want to avoid at any cost. Unfortunately, this overlooks the deep psychological reasoning for poor performance in the workplace.
Some people live troubled lives. They find it difficult to excel at anything they do. This does not prevent them from wishing that the limelight would fall on them occasionally. They discover that they can get the attention that they crave by underperforming. Many management hours around the world are spent chastising people for poor performance and attempting to get them to raise their game.
The "wooden spoon" actually acts as a spotlight for these people. It is a mechanism that they can manipulate by doing their job badly. In one company they would award "pig of the week" to the messiest and most disorganized worker in the team. The award was a small stuffed pig that people would place in a prominent position on their desk. The result of the "pig of the week" award was that an informal competition began in the office. Rather than an embarrassment, "pig of the week" became a cult award that everyone wanted to win and so, rather than raise the level of tidiness and organization in the office, it actually increased the chaos in which people worked.
A much more constructive award is the "Silver Spoon Award". It is designed to encourage people who may not yet be the best role-models in the company and whose performance may actually be well below what is considered excellent but who nevertheless deserve some sort of recognition for the work they have put in, for their attitude to the job, for their ability to motivate their colleagues or just for their ability to make people laugh and enjoy being at work. In a way the "Silver Spoon Award" is designed to capture the "Most Improved" and the "Best Fun" categories.
The award itself can be imaginary or virtual but, equally, a simple silver teaspoon mounted on a hardwood block, which is passed from person to person at the beginning of each award period, adds a touch of tangibility to winning.
Under the new award system, Toby Miller's sense of humor can be recognized without denying others the accolade for best salesman, most creative designer, most efficient assembler.