As employers seek new ways to recognize employees in the workplace, research from the University of Waterloo suggests that public peer recognition may backfire by enabling comparisons among employees.
"Employers have sought out various peer recognition systems in an effort to promote employee helping behavior," says Pei Wang, a Ph.D. candidate at the university and author of a study published in the journal Accounting Perspectives. "When employees feel that they deserve recognition from their peers but do not receive it, employees can conclude that they are unfairly treated, and this makes employees less willing to help other co-workers."
Using a three-employee setting composed of the recognizer, the helper, and the worker, the researcher tested whether peer information disclosed by peer recognition systems affects employees' subsequent willingness to help. During the study, both the helper and the worker assist the recognizer, however, only the helper receives recognition by the recognizer. The worker exhibits less willingness to assist the recognizer and the helper when the worker perceives that their initial assistance exceeds the helper's than when the worker perceives that their initial assistance is less than that of the helper.
These findings provide the empirical evidence of the negative impact that peer recognition systems have on helping behavior.
From University of Waterloo
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