Competition in a Recognition Program


I need help with a planned recognition program. We have four job placement offices. There is an overall placement rate goal as well as goals for the individual locations.

I want to implement the Shining Star award. I bought a small star trophy that is intended to recognize the office with the highest placement rate each quarter based on the monthly  placement report (an objective measure of performance).

Here’s the issue – Most people are for it. However, there is a negative yet very vocal few who oppose it. Their argument is that it will create division. These negative people are so overpowering that those who want to agree, won’t speak up.

Keep in mind, we have always had a monthly report and there has always been some sense of competition between locations.

So, how do we address the negative and still honor the positive?

I’d really appreciate any advice you could give.


First off, I’m glad you’re thinking about more ways to recognize!

In considering the affects of this program, my first thought is that by honoring the highest overall placement rate we are assuming that the playing field is level.

Here are some questions I would ask to decide if this is true:

  • Does each location have the same placement rate goal?
  • Is the goal based on employee head count or simply percentage of applications?
  • Do some locations deal with a more difficult-to-place clientele?

If the field really is level, and all locations can reasonably compete to achieve the highest rate, then a traveling trophy such as you are planning is excellent! A trophy that moves each quarter isn’t likely to be divisive.

I would recommend that you have a kick-off meeting with each group. Talk about the intent of the program: to highlight and encourage even higher placement rates. Then, when giving the award do some research on how they are accomplishing high rates and publicize that with the entire organization. In this way you provide education on what creates success.

If, however, the field is not really equal (one location takes on more challenging cases, etc.) then I would prefer to see a team award for every location that meets or exceeds its goal each quarter. You might have a food-based celebration: pizza, build your own sundae/sandwich and post the successful locations in your newsletter, with a poster on the bulletin board, or wherever works best.


12 Responses to “Competition in a Recognition Program”

  1. 1 Frank S. Adamo March 24, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    In Toastmasters, most clubs recognize the best speaker, best Table Topics, and the best evaluator. Some clubs refrain from these awards. Some say how can a new Toastmaster win over an accomplished speaker who has been in Toastmasters for many years.

    Each speech have specific objectives. Evaluations should be based on those specific objectives. The awards are based on these same objectives. Does it always work? No, but we strive for excellence.

    Recognition should be deserving, but also a joyful event. Many will have every plaque, certificate, ribbon, trophy and any other recognition up on the wall behind his/her desk. Personally, I’m not that interested in recognition. I have several plaques, certificates and ribbons I’ve earned over the years, but I generally just put them in a box.

    Most likely, those who are against recognitions do not have confidence in themselves. I know, I was like that before. Also, those hang up every little award on their walls probably are somewhat un-assure of themselves.

    In Toastmasters we don’t make the awards serious. It’s nice to have an award, but we understand that it’s a simple recognition. What you might want to do is to explain this is simply a joyous event taking place. Certainly some people will not be recognized, but they are still valuable to the company and there is no reason to be affected by not receiving recognition.

    Recognitions are done everywhere starting in grade school (perhaps in nursery school). It’s a common event. If you make the event like a celebration and make it joyful, exciting, open, and with food, then everyone should enjoy it. One last thought, spend any money on food for everyone and do not give out monetary recognitions.

    Ciao, Frank

  2. 2 Ley Borlo March 24, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    I agree with your reply, but would add another consideration if the playing fields are not equal. When knowing the fundamental historical measurements of each office there are ways to level the playing fields by using rules structures that combine actual placement rates up to and over goal with % performance at and over goal. This combination can more accurately reflect performance of different size offices, market demographics etc. They might want to implement a true performance improvement initiative targeting awards to incremental performance and let each office compete against their own goal,in other words compete against themselves. They could then have the shining star award for the office with the best performance against themselves. In this case all would win, one would just get the reinforcement for the highest performance against goal that program period.

  3. 3 Cindy Ventrice March 24, 2008 at 6:31 pm


    I would agree that recognition is everywhere in society. Clear objectives are key to perception.


  4. 4 Cindy Ventrice March 24, 2008 at 6:34 pm


    I think we are in agreement. I was suggesting they be measured against themselves if the field is not level. Thanks providing more detail and clarity.


  5. 5 Barb Jordahl March 25, 2008 at 5:19 am

    We all have the negative voices in our workplaces, who sometimes stomp on a recognition effort. When we have faced this situation, we may challenge those individuals to voice specific concerns and ask for input to tailor the program so that it meets all the employees expectations. We have also separately canvassed those individuals for feedback why the program would face barriers. We have gone so far as putting those individuals on the committee to assess and upgrade the program as we roll it out, so that there is investment on their part for the success of the program and personal ownership of it’s success.
    For those few individuals who cannot see the value of team recognition, it is difficult for an employer to put their feet to the fire, but peer pressure sometimes is the best reinforcer of a well structured, fair and consistent program.

  6. 6 Cindy Ventrice March 25, 2008 at 9:15 am


    Your strategy is excellent. I concur that involving the naysayers in the process can really help!


  7. 7 Tyler Gentry March 25, 2008 at 9:57 am

    My observation is MORE RECOGNITION!!! Negativity in the work place can only be overcome with more Positivity. Did you know that for every negative interaction, it takes 6 positive interactions to replace the 1 negative? (Side note: A great book to read on Positivity in the workplace is “How Full Is Your Bucket” by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton). Recognition in my opinion is about positive interactions. In the case above, my suggestion is to add other programs and formal/informal ways to recognize positive behavior in the workplace. If everyone is experiencing recognition on some level, there is a greater likelihood that negativity will dissipate, if not disappear all together 🙂

  8. 8 Cindy Ventrice March 25, 2008 at 10:24 am


    First, let me concur that How Full Is Your Bucket is an excellent book! You will find it is listed in my recommended reading section on this blog.

    I do want to clarify one thing. The ratio you quoted is 5:1 positive:negative for married couples. Rath and Clifton go on to say that further studies of the workplace show that the ratio needs to be 3:1 or better.

    With that said, you are absolutely correct that if there are lots of opportunities for recognition beyond the Star award there is less likelihood of grumbling. However, we still want to do everything we can to make the award fantastically fair and keep the award from damaging relations between locations.


  9. 9 dolores montenegro March 26, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Before implementing any recognition program, understanding the fundamental reasons or things that motivate people would serve to identify the type of recognition program that could or should be implemented to keep people motivated, involved, and ultimately lead to higher levels of productivity. Perhaps their reasons are fear based. Will the recongnition program lead to actions that would hurt one group over another because of better results or higher numbers.

    It seems to me that by understanding any fears that may be fueling the negativity, you will gain the necesary knowledge to create a recognition program that could be embraced by all including the most negative of the group.

    Since there are already goals in place, the focus should be less on the numbers and perhaps more on the creativity used to generate those numbers.

    Fairness above all is key in my mind to the success of any recognition program. So I would ask, are the rules such that everyone will have an opportunity to succeed at some point, if not then perhaps the process needs to be retooled.

    I personally like a little competition that not only challenging but fun.

  10. 10 Cindy Ventrice March 26, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    Hi Delores,

    I agree with everything you have said. Sometimes though, the naysayers will waylay your program for reasons that are unsound. Under the best of circumstances it is difficult to convert everyone. If most people see the value in a little fun competition– go for it. The others may or may not come around.


  11. 11 Claudia March 30, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    I think a fun challenge in a workplace keeps everyone awake and on their toes building better character and better work ethics. I agree that you should talk to your naysayers and find out why they are resisting so. Are they so negatively vocal because they have found a comfort zone at work where they get just enough done to get them by or are they resisting the team competition because they know that only a few will be doing all of the work for the team carrying the weight of the “comfortzoners”. Maybe setting individual goals and rewarding the top three out of each location is a better answer. If the majority of people see the value in the competition– I also say “go for it”.

  12. 12 Cindy Ventrice March 31, 2008 at 8:32 am


    You offer a good alternative program. Thank you.


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My name is Cindy Ventrice. I am the author of the best-selling book Make Their Day! Employee Recognition That Works and the companion guide Recognition Strategies That Work.

My work has been quoted in The New York Times, Alaska Airlines Magazine, Workforce Magazine, and Tim Sanders' book The Likeability Factor.

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