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Employee of the Month: A Lesson At Jim Halpert’s Expense

December 16, 2009

(Check out the video above from :15 to 1:29 to view a portion of the episode described)

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I’ve read a lot of debate as far as the use of “Employee of the Month” programs as a method to increase motivation among a workforce. For anyone who is an adamant follower of The Office, we all learned two weeks ago that this type of program has the tendency to backfire on you, despite good intentions.

Jim Halpert: recently promoted to the co-regional manager of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin. In last Thursday’s episode, fellow employee Andy suggests starting an employee of the month program. Thinking how this could improve office morale and by judging performance based on completely unbiased metrics, Jim makes an executive decision to implement the program.

Which completely backfires.

Sure, most companies aren’t going to have a Dwight Schrute sabatoging the plan from the get-go like Jim (like fudging the results to make it look like Jim won…and ordering a congratulatory cake with Jim’s face on it). However, there are some key points from this event that we can learn from.

The main problem with this program was that it became a competition among the employees. Any well executed recognition program makes it about…recognition of employees! Not a cutthroat competition among the office of “who’s the best employee.” Sure you are recognizing outstanding work from one worker but also could be doing more harm than good for morale by potentially making the rest of the employees feel like losers. The program also put more emphasis on just results than modifying behavior. Any program that doesn’t have an initial goal of influencing behavior is bound to be a fruitless effort.

So let’s sit back and learn from Jim’s predicament. More thought into the recognition program before implementing it may have helped for a better result. A little less Dwight probably wouldn’t have hurt either.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. sherfelad permalink
    December 17, 2009 4:25 am

    This is very interesting. However, many things we do everyday have the potential to backfire… Aren’t there circumstanced under which this kind of program (designed carefully) could be effective? Isn’t some competition between employees positive? I would love to hear your thoughts…
    Thanks
    Elad

    • December 17, 2009 5:23 pm

      If designed carefully to inlfuence the behavior of the employees (in a positive way of course) then sure it would have potential. Generally speaking though, these type of programs aren’t near as effective as others. This post mainly points out how the complete lack of planning and foresight on Jim’s part, though there were good intentions, ultimately led to the bad scenario they ended up with. I’m sure you would agree that having a recognition program just for the sake of having one (like in Jim’s case) is never a good idea.

      • sherfelad permalink
        December 18, 2009 3:39 am

        Thanks for the reply. I totally agree that:”having a recognition program just for the sake of having one”.

        I was wondering about this sentence in the original post:
        “The main problem with this program was that it became a competition among the employees. Any well executed recognition program makes it about…recognition of employees! Not a cutthroat competition among the office of ‘who’s the best employee.'”

        It just seems that the competition between employees in itself is a problem and I was wandering whether this is what you meant… It seems from your reply like this was not your intention… Am I right?

  2. January 13, 2010 3:31 pm

    I think merely making the program a competition caused a lot of problems. Generally speaking, competition based programs don’t see a whole lot of success in regards to engagement. However, like with anything, there can be exceptions to this rule

    • sherfelad permalink
      January 13, 2010 4:09 pm

      Interesting! Thanks!

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