Stop Scamming Your Staff With an Employee of the Month Award


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We treat our employees like sheep; herd them in, give them slop to eat and expect the sweat off their brow (or their wool in this case) then we toss them aside when they’re no longer needed.

Add to this substandard working conditions, low wages, out-of-touch management and unrealistic expectations and we wonder why morale is at an all-time low.

Years ago someone had the bright idea to single out an employee each month in recognition of their stellar performance and bestow an award labeled the “Employee of the Month”. Sounds great, I applaud this.

But as time passed and “political correctness” reared its ugly head, the meaning behind this effort has become watered-down to say the least.

Employee of the Month SpongeBob 2In the truest sense of the word, whoever is the best employee for a specific month should win, regardless if he/she has already won the award last month or 2-3 months in a row. If the award is for performance and if the same person is repeatedly the best, he should be awarded each month – just like SpongeBob Squarepants!

But this doesn’t happen. We “must” vote a new person each month to “spread the award around”. We “can’t keep giving the award to “Johnny”, or the other employees will be upset”. Have you ever heard that said during those meetings when voting takes place? I sure have…

Well, does anybody worry about Johnny, your best employee?

If he’s upset and decides to quit, what are we left with? Just subpar employees that have only been singled out for the award because we must have “diversity” in awarding the prize. That’s not right!

The reward should go to the best, regardless of who it is or how many times he/she has won. We shouldn’t penalize stellar performance because of some unfounded mindset of equality or redistribution of recognition.

Give some incentive for employees to do better. Let them see they can, and will, be singled-out for their fine performance. They need to know there is some appreciation for their efforts.

But, and this is a BIG but, rewarding your employees must be more than just a silly plaque on the wall or a certification of appreciation. Show real, substantive appreciation.

Put a fresh coat of paint on the wall, replace those broken seats in the employee lounge, get rid of the slop you masquerade as “free lunch”, expect just as much from your management as you do your hourly employees and most importantly; involve your employees in the business.

The bosses don’t know it all – I promise. I’ve worked with far too many managers who should never should been promoted to that level in the first place. Wonder who they knew? Want to know why morale is low? Look at who your leaders are!

Your employees are the heart and soul of your business. Get them involved in decisions, put their recommendations into effect, listen to them – REALLY listen to them.

Once they feel an integral part of your business you’ll still have a difficult time deciding on who to vote for employee of the month, But, this time it will be because of the amount of true superstars that deserve the award.

Remember, we don’t give out participation awards in business…agree?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve DiGioia
Steve uses his 20+ years of experience in the hospitality industry to help companies and their employees improve service, increase morale and provide the experience their customers' desire. Author of "Earn More Tips On Your Very Next Shift...Even If You're a Bad Waiter" and named an "ICMI Top 50 Customer Service Thought Leader" and a "Top Customer Service Influencer" by CCW Digital, Steve continues his original customer service, leadership and management-based writings on his popular blog.


  1. Employees, as you note, are indeed the heart and soul of the business. So are customers. Employee of the Month programs have as little relevance as Customer Appreciation Day programs. If real, and personally valued, customer and employee experience are not embedded into the enterprise cultural DNA, these superficial recognition programs will be seen for the insincerity and inability to drive desired behavior that they actually represent. Stakeholder-centric companies know better, and do better.

  2. The flaw is not how “Employee of the month” programs are administered, it is the program itself. Why not create a culture of affirmation so that people naturally and sincerly affirm each other without need for a program. Do you have a “Kid of the month” program in your home? How about a “church member of the month?” We could let fans of an athletic team vote on the “player of the month.” Notice how taking the concept out of the work environment spotlights the absence of authenticity. I agree with Michael, let’s make affirmation real, valued and a natural part of the culture.

  3. Hi Chip,
    Part of the problem with an employee of the month program, and why it doesn’t truly motivate as intended, is it is antiquated. It is the first thought management has when deciding on ways to increase employee morale but in today’s work environment so much more is needed.

    We focus on the latest trends to operate our business but revert back to “old fashioned” methods in dealing with our staff. A consistent show of appreciation goes much farther. Thanks Chip.

  4. Michael,
    I agree with all your comments and you touch on one great point; the cultural DNA of the company is more telling of the future profitability of the business than much of management realizes. We focus to much on P&L spreadsheets, the percentage of this, market share of that, and a myriad of other measures but forget the one determining factor that ultimately counts in the end – the employees. Thanks much.


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