Welcome to Wally World

Welcome to Wally World. No, not the fictional amusement park of National Lampoon’s Vacation, but the fictional amusement park of the new business parable Reasons 2 Reward.

In Reasons 2 Reward we follow Max, the new park manager, as he attempts to revitalize the park by revitalizing the work environment.

I like business parables. They teach through storytelling and we often learn best through storytelling. This parable has numerous workplace lessons to teach, 28 highlighted points that range from provide feedback to create reward systems that people would aspire to achieve and be proud to receive. Overall, the book reinforces what managers can do to engage employees.

The story does have a couple of inconsistencies that are minor, but there is one point where,  from my perspective, manager Max really misses the mark in a significant way.

Here is the excerpt:

Have you been recognizing your team in some way Barry?” Max asked.

“That’s for sissies. My men hate that sort of stuff, especially getting pointed out in front of all the other guys. They would rather die than be embarrassed like that.”

Barry is a master at sidestepping the question. Max asked if he was recognizing in some way. Barry responds that his ‘guys’ don’t like public recognition. It would have been a great place to acknowledge that not everyone wants recognition given publicly, that this preference is driven by both culture and personality, and is very real.

Max could have then offered options for recognizing the entire team and for giving private individual recognition, while insisting that Barry recognize his people in some way. Instead, Max responds:

“I think you would be surprised Barry. Everyone appreciates a thank you.”

Maybe I’m not reading it as it was intended, but this seems to imply that recognition has to be public and that everyone wants it this way. It seems Max thinks Barry would be surprised to learn that everyone likes public recognition, I know I would be surprised to learn this. I can personally think of dozens of examples where this was not true. Here a few from my experience:

  • The company that posted employee of the month pictures in the front foyer and found that their predominantly Asian workforce started coming in the back entrance!
  • The VP that became sullen when acknowledged in a management meeting but became animated when acknowledged one to one.
  • The engineers who threatened to stop performing if they were recognized in the type of flashy ceremony loved by the sales team!

Public vs. private is a recognition preference. You can ignore the preference. You can choose not to recognize the preference. You can create a work culture where everyone receives public recognition and many people will love it. In some industries, most people will love it. Keep in mind though, that those that don’t love it will leave as soon as they have the opportunity.

Reasons 2 Reward – eighty pages of lessons and six sentences that make me feel the need to disagree, to start a discussion.

The thing about parables, they are open to interpretation, they get us talking and thinking. I imagine that every reader will find something in this book that provokes discussion and that is a good thing!

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