“How come my manager doesn’t reward me for my contributions?”
“Why was my award this year so much less than last year when I worked harder than I ever have in my life?”
“How come Jack got an award for the project we just finished, and I didn’t?”
Monetary awards in the corporate workplace are a squishy business at best. There are often no set rules, budgets can vary dramatically, and managers have very different ideas about how that money should be spent. Here’s what you need to know about awards:
1. It’s not fair. That’s right – this isn’t a family Christmas where the same amount gets spent on each child. Nor is it the junior soccer league where everyone gets a trophy just for showing up. Management systems for determining who should get awards are highly subjective, and vary dramatically depending on the organization. But even more importantly, they aren’t designed to be fair. At any given point in time, you may get exactly what you deserve, less than you deserve, or even sometimes more than you deserve. But it’s not just about what you deserve – it’s also about what the organization can afford.
2. Your organization has an award budget – and it’s discretionary. Monetary awards are harder and harder to come by. Fewer awards are given, and the dollar amounts are lower. Most organizations have a budget for awards, and managers are measured on whether they stick to that budget. But when business is bad bosses still need to balance their budget. What gets cut? Travel, raises, awards – anything discretionary is fair game to be cut.
3. Managers and organizations have different approaches when it comes to awards. If it’s a team project, some managers believe in spreading the award dollars across all team members. Other managers believe in awarding only the top contributors. Your manager’s style may make a difference in what this means to you. This is true for raises and bonuses as well.
4. The big picture matters. Did you get a big award last year? Did you just get a promotion or a raise? Most organizations look at your total salary picture when considering awards. If you just got a promotion with a raise after that last project, an award may be considered “double-dipping”. Managers need to use all the tools they have at their disposal to reward all of their employees, and sometimes that means that you will be skipped over for one reward in favor of another.
5. You need to ask for what you deserve. Many of us don’t like to pat ourselves on the back and bring attention to ourselves. After all, our managers should notice our contributions, right? Usually they do, but managers are also influenced by what they are hearing from their employees. If Jack has been telling his manager every week what he has accomplished, and has made it clear that he thinks he deserves an award, he’s more likely to get it.
And if you’re the manager or team leader proposing the award for a project and you think you also deserve an award, don’t assume that your manager will think to add you to the list. If your name should be on the list, by all means add it yourself!