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Why you should not reward all employees the same: The turkey giveaway story

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Many people will argue that it is important to provide the same reward to all employees regardless of performance. Although this may seem like a fair way to recognize employees during a period of strong results or following the completion of a major project history dictates otherwise. Consider this true story about a California aerospace manufacturer.

The company had a great year so decided to thank all of its employees with a turkey to take home for the Christmas holiday. Each employee was given the turkey along with a congratulatory note as they left work for the holiday.

As employees were walking to their cars they realized that some of the turkeys were smaller than those of their coworkers. After the holiday complaints were directed at the human resources department and several executives by the employees that had received smaller than average turkeys. They were concerned that they were being punished for poor performance.

The following Christmas management decided they would once again give away turkeys. In an effort to avert the complaints from the prior year they contacted the supplier and mandated that all turkeys had to be exactly the same weight. The supplier quickly rebutted that unfortunately turkeys come in varying weights and it would be impossible to produce a large number with the same weight.

Faced with the reality that turkeys would have different weights human resources decided to include a statement with every turkey: “The weight of your turkey does not necessarily reflect your performance over the last year.”

The note did not settle the issue for those receiving the smaller turkeys. Employees were asked how to improve the program and they commented that people should have the choice between a turkey, ham, fruit basket or some other item. This made the annual giveaway so intensive that someone had to be hired just to manage the program.

Despite these efforts resentment and hostility continued due to the varying values of what was perceived to be a program providing an equal benefit to all employees.

Still a company continued the program until managers learned there was a sinister practice that could lead to the destruction of the company.

What activity were some of the employees doing and eventually killed the holiday reward? Click here to find out.

©2014 Max Impact, used with permission.

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