What's the best way to reward an associate without wreaking havoc on team dynamics? I want to recognize hard work, but at the same time, I don't want to foster a cutthroat work environment. As a small business, the last thing I want is to lay the foundation for politics and drama.




You are right to be cautious. In an ideal scenario, everyone on the team should understand the criteria for rewards. Each person should have the same opportunity and resources to achieve the reward and progress toward reaching it should be measurable and public.

Also, be sure to acknowledge how rewards are attained. Are they reached solely as a result of individual effort or does teamwork play into the achievement?

Make sure you are rewarding the right behaviors. Under these conditions the team should know why the reward was given and team members should be motivated to reach the rewarded goal themselves in the future. If the team is not aware that the reward is being given and the reasons why, there may be hard feelings, loss of motivation and even a drop in productivity.

You might want to hold off giving the reward until the conditions of granting it are established. In the meantime, you could acknowledge the whole team for the good jobs that they are all doing. In the process, you could single out the star performer for special praise.

You could also mention the achievement of one or two other team members. This might then be a good time to introduce the reward process to the entire team. Keep it simple, clear and direct. The team probably knows who deserves praise and will be in support of your actions.

Jack Militello is a professor and director of the health care MBA program, Management Department, University of St. Thomas