Understanding how reward and recognition can backfire!

Reward and recognition - old hungarian story about snakeWhen reward and recognition goes wrong!

There is an old Hungarian fable which can help us understand the possible negative affects of reward and recognition:

A man was out fishing in a boat on a lake. It was a beautiful day and the fisherman was feeling pleased with the world. There was a tug on his line and when he reeled it in he found a snake on the end – and the snake had a live frog in its mouth.

Feeling sorry for the frog he took it out of the snake’s mouth and threw it back in the water.

He then found himself feeling guilty for depriving the snake of his lunch so he looked around the boat for something with which to compensate the snake. All he could find was a bottle of brandy so he gave the snake a slug of brandy and threw him back into the water.

A few moments later there was a loud knocking on the side of the boat. The fisherman looked over to find the snake – this time with two live frogs in his mouth.

The moral of the tale links to leading and developing high performance because:

1. What gets rewarded gets done.

2. You get more of the behaviours you reward.

3. It is easy to inadvertently reward unwanted behaviour.

So you might want to reflect on how reward and recognition works in your team and ask yourself these questions:

1. What is getting done? How am I rewarding that?

2. What isn’t getting done? How am I not recognising that?

3. How am I rewarding behaviour that I don’t want?

4. Is anyone getting penalised for doing the right thing? How can I recognise more of the things I want done?

How have you been rewarded and recognised to do the right thing and where have you been rewarded for doing the wrong thing?

I would be interested in your experience of when reward and recognition works for you and when it doesn’t!