Manager, Reward Thyself

By Malcolm Fleschner

A job well done is its own reward, right? Unfortunately, this is the approach taken by many sales organizations looking for an excuse not to run incentive programs. The truth is that hard-working salespeople expect – and deserve – to have their successes recognized and rewarded by management.

As motivation expert Bob Nelson ( notes, the best managers today are always looking for ways to help their team members succeed.
"They know the power of positive reinforcement in working with others and recognizing and rewarding them for their efforts and results," says Nelson, author of the recently revised bestseller 1001 Ways to Reward Employees (Workman Publishing Company, 2005). "They know that by providing a positive consequence, they will greatly increase the chances of having the desired behavior repeated or the high performance even further enhanced. They know that the greatest management principle in the world is, ‘You get what you reward.’"

One problem Nelson identifies, however, is these top managers often fail to rotate the rewarding impulse 180 degrees, and give themselves a taste of recognition. This oversight can lead to a negative attitude, where the manager feels overworked and underappreciated. It doesn’t have to be this way. Nelson encourages managers to acknowledge that they’ve done a good job.

"You can take control of your own needs and do something to recognize and reward yourself when you finish a project, help a coworker, or set a personal best level of performance that others may not even be aware of," he says. "Acknowledging your success and giving yourself a chance to appreciate and regenerate are essential to keeping fresh and effective, whatever your position."

Nelson emphasizes that taking time off in this manner can make good business sense as well. Time away from the office spent reflecting on larger issues allows the mind to focus on "outsidethebox" thinking that’s often impossible when you’re busy putting out fires and dealing with the here-and-now of the workplace environment.

An important consideration in the self-rewarding process, Nelson notes, is to reflect on your unique preferences and what you will find genuinely rejuvenating.
"What works best varies widely from person to person," he says, "so it’s important to be aware of what you find most satisfying and rewarding. For some people, it’s reading; for others it may be exercise; still others like to buy something for themselves. During a stressful time, acknowledging a milestoneis a way of picking up their spirits when they feel down."

Managers looking to reward themselves without leaving the rest of their team members out of the fun might consider an idea Nelson picked up from one of his clients. This company employed a "gainsharing" program, distributing checks to every employee at the end of each quarter that the company reached profitability goals. Since such cash bonuses typically offer little trophy value, this company initiated an add-on program, giving each employee another $50 on top of the gainshare, but on one condition: each recipient had to leave the office and spend the money on themselves within two hours. At the end of the two hours, everyone reconvened to display their purchases.

"When everyone came together to share, the variety of purchases was as varied as the employees themselves," Nelson says. "One woman displayed a fancy manicure, many people purchased items for their favorite hobbies, several people bought electronic organizers, some bought books, and so on. Many employees were heard to say, ‘I never get anything for myself’ because of a lack of time, money and energy or because they usually choose to pamper their children and not themselves."

As Nelson points out, it doesn’t take much to reward yourself, but it can make a huge difference, not only for you but for those who work around youand the business. So don’t delay – you do deserve it, after all!