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Should You Reward Underperformers for One-Off Achievements?

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Should You Reward Underperformers for One Off Achievements?

This is one dilemma that many Line Managers and HR Partners face – whether to reward underperformers for significant achievements, as part of the employee rewards and recognition program. In most cases, the rewards and recognition policies might not state anything explicitly, leaving it to the better judgment of the concerned managers.

Why Shouldn’t Underperformers be Ignored for Employee Rewards and Recognition?

Should you Reward Underperformers for One-Off Achievements?

1. Underperformance might be temporary


An important point to note here is that consistent underperformers might rarely be around in the system since the performance assessment process would take care of that.

Hence, underperformance might be a temporary phase or it could be just relative. And more than other employees, these employees need more motivation.

2. Critical to be fair and unbiased

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Managers often tend to use all available resources to motivate their employees.

This might result in managers tending to ignore the underperformers and focusing on the top performers when it comes to rewards and recognition.

Hence a truly deserving employee might miss out on a spot award for a significant achievement, due to his or her overall performance history.

3. Might motivate underperformers to do better

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Not rewarding underperformers for their record is not only this unfair, but counterproductive as well.

The manager might be missing out on an important opportunity to motivate an underperformer and put him or her back on track.

Whereas a top performer, who might not truly deserve the award, might get an award because of their track record; this might not cause any significant change in their motivation levels.


Hence we recommend that awards especially those in the category of spot awards should be given based on the immediate achievements and not the past track record of the employees.

Awards should be treated as awards – it okay to reward underperformers for their achievements if they meet the criteria!

Sagar Chaudhuri

Lead author: Sagar Chaudhuri, the Co-Founder and CEO of HiFives. He is an HR Tech Evangelist with over 25 years of experience in the corporate world and entrepreneurship. In the past, Sagar has worked with companies such as Genpact, Infosys, and ICICI Bank, in leadership roles. He has an engineering degree from IIT Kharagpur and an MBA from IIM Lucknow. Connect on LinkedIn

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HiFives is a global employee rewards, recognition and engagement SaaS platform that enables organizations to digitize, automate and transform their employee experience. It is used by 100+ large enterprises, small businesses and startups in manufacturing, retail, technology, financial services and media, across 25+ countries.