Office Quickly Sours on Sweet Food Rewards

4 min read

It's been said that “candy is nature’s way of making up for Mondays.” Those words may have been running through the head of one well-meaning manager as he offered a food reward that he was sure would motivate every chocoholic in the office. However, sometimes even the sweetest plans can have sour consequences. When giving out small rewards, companies hope to boost employees' morale and productivity. Unfortunately for our reader Dave, this token of appreciation took an unforeseen turn for the worse. Dave shared the resulting loss of productivity from a poorly thought-out incentive: I was working for a company that had a large financial client, and one division had this great idea: The employee of the month would receive an empty candy jar and $200 to keep it filled with whatever candy they wanted. [caption id="attachment_8463" align="alignleft" width="170"]Man holding chocolate bar Dave, is that you?[/caption] The problem was that everyone on the floor knew exactly where the candy jar was. They would gather at the person’s desk whenever they needed a quick sugar rush. Traffic got so bad that the employee with the candy jar could not make important phone calls or concentrate on their work throughout the day. Soon the candy jar became so popular that the “winner” was taking half an hour every day to go to the store and refill it. Eventually, the winning employees caught on and started adding Smarties, black licorice, and any other candy that was more likely to discourage than entice their co-workers from congregating at their desk. The candy jar was a nice thought to start, but ultimately backfired and was truly a failed incentive.  

Reward for reward's sake?

When giving out special recognition, think about the behavior you are encouraging. Are you giving out a reward just for the sake of it? Think about who the recognition is meant to help, and whether it's likely to increase productivity or morale. Last week we posted an infographic that suggested businesses “Determine their employee engagement baseline with an employee engagement survey. Then re-survey periodically to measure the effects of your improvement initiatives.” Ideally, the boss's reward should have made Dave feel like a kid in a candy story instead of a vending machine getting a shakedown.

Food rewards that don't bite back

The candy jar didn't work out so well in Dave's office, as we've seen. Nonetheless, gifts of food can be a thoughtful way to show appreciation to employees. Here are a few goodies that won't become more burden than bonus for the winners.

  1. Milk and cookies delivered to the office

  2. Breakfast ready and waiting on the recipient’s desk

  3. A different dessert delivered every day for a week

  4. Paid dinner for two at a fancy restaurant

  5. A chocolate fountain in the break room

Need more inspiration? Check out these 25 Low-Cost Ways to Reward Employees from Forbes. Images by mikeledray/Shutterstock, Gayvoronskaya_Yana/Shutterstock, and Zurijeta/Shutterstock.