Do you recognize people for consistent or spontaneous effort?

Many years ago I worked a couple of stints for a kitschy fast casual restaurant, once in their merchandise store and then as a restaurant server.  As a server, I very quickly went from “newbie” daytime waitress to competent server who got to work the night and swing shifts with the rockstar group.  It was common practice to drive competition among the employees with hourly, daily and monthly goals and contests.  On the merchandise side of the house, these were pretty objective contests based primarily on how much you sold.  On the restaurant side of the house, there were objective contests based solely on sales and table turnover, but there were also subjective awards granted by management.

I was always amazed by how often employees were rewarded for “moments of brilliance” over those employees who consistently did their job, and did it well.  I have never been able to figure out if this was done with the intent to motivate the award winner to more consistently perform, or if it was just a matter of how the spontaneous effort was perceived through the course of that day.  For those employees, for that short period of time, they went above and beyond what was expected of them.  For that, it was noticed and recognized.  The rewards did not seem to impact their overall performance significantly increase the number of times they produced spontaneous effort.

Unfortunately I think this was actually quite demotivating to the employees who always consistently performed.  It was always assumed that those individuals would just do what they do.  I do not believe that the intent was to not reward those employees.  The impact of their effort was just minimized by the very obvious, very visible spontaneous effort of others.  Inevitably, the employees who consistently exerted effort left and everyone felt the pain of their absence.  However, that was not sufficient enough to break the cycle.

I’d like to challenge you to consider looking at the people you work with and make sure that everyone gets the recognition they deserve and need.  Do not single out people who have “moments of brilliance” without also recognizing those people who you can consistently rely on.