In fast-paced and often rapidly changing work environments, employers continue to look for new and improved ways to recognize employees in the workplace. However, new research from the University of Waterloo suggests that public recognition by peers may backfire by enabling comparisons among employees, and those comparisons may make some employees feel unfairly treated.
“Employers have sought out different systems of peer recognition in an effort to promote employee helping behavior,” said Bai Wang, Ph.D. Candidate in Accountancy at Waterloo. “When employees feel they deserve recognition from their peers but they don’t get it, employees can infer that they are being treated unfairly, and that makes employees less willing to help their coworkers, not just the coworker they feel is treating them unfairly,” she says.
In practice, this type of treatment that an employee interprets as unfair can occur when the individual disagrees about what type of behavior should and should not be acknowledged during public peer recognition. In addition, some employees may provide acknowledgment only to those who are close to them.
Using a three-employee setting consisting of a recognizer, helper, and worker, the researcher tests whether peer information revealed by peer recognition systems influences employees’ subsequent willingness to help. During this study, both the helper and the worker assist the recognizer, however, the helper only receives the recognition of the recognizer. The worker is less willing to help the recognizer and the helper when the worker perceives that his initial assistance is greater than that of the helper than when the worker perceives that his initial assistance is less than that of the helper. The lower level of the worker’s willingness to help the helper is an extension from cross-reaction to non-acknowledgment of the confessor.
These results provide the first empirical evidence of a negative impact of peer recognition systems on helping behavior. This research can show how employers use peer recognition in the workplace. Peer recognition is often advertised as a tool to make employees more willing to help others. The results of the study show that managers may want to be aware of the potential downside of peer recognition age.
“My research provides a first step in warning managers of the potential unintended consequences of using public peer recognition, that is, the perceived unfairness of reducing helping behavior,” Wang said. It can be helpful for managers to communicate with their employees and come to some agreed-upon guidelines about what needs to be recognized by public peer recognition and what does not need to be recognized by public peer recognition.”
The study, “When Peer Recognition Backfires: The Effect of Peer Information on Subsequent Helping Behavior,” appears in the journal accounting perspectives.
B. Wang, When Peer Recognition Backfires: Effect of Peer Information on Subsequent Helping Behavior†, accounting perspectives (2023). DOI: 10.1111 / 1911-3838.12335
the quote: Employers Should Think Twice Before Implementing Peer Recognition Programs (2023, June 8) Retrieved June 8, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-06-employers-peer-recognition.html
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