Our company is big on giving praise where praise is due. How that works is you get to nominate one or more people who are always doing some amazing work, going the extra mile, etc. However, since we have a lot of people deployed in the field on solo or small team projects, the result is that the larger teams always vote for each other and it becomes sort of like a census of who works in the biggest team.

We are trying to work out a way to recognise our deployed people who do amazing work, but don't have the team size to get them the most votes.

I am asking for ideas or examples of how others have solved this type of issue.


8 Answers 8


The voting system is bad for several reasons, one of them being the ones you mention.

I would change the system from "voting" to "nominating" someone for evaluation. There is a risk that everyone would propose themselves, but this kind of behavior can easily be spotted and dealt with.

So the idea is simple:

  • everyone can nominate from 1 to N people who did great, regardless of the team they work on;
  • nominations must describe the great work and explain why it is great;
  • managers working in a one-voice setup analyze all the nominations and decide the next steps / rewards.

There is still room for abuse, but less than the voting system. In the voting system, the problem is the system itself additionally to the matter of the quality of the people. In my proposal, it is just a matter of the quality of the people - the people making proposals and the people doing the analysis and making the decisions.

Note: In my "system", the number of nominations does not matter. In the end, there is a mater of nomination vs no nomination. However, the reasons for nomination are cumulative, where applicable.

  • 7
    That's better but doesn't really address the underlying problem of "lack of visibility". It assumes that the "managers" know everyone reasonably well, which in practice they don't. Bob works for Alice and Cindy works for Dan. But Dan doesn't know Bob and Alice doesn't know Cindy so they have no common data or knowledge to make a decision on. I've sat in very long department meetings hacking through this and it was quite painful. You do the best you can, but that's not particularly good.
    – Hilmar
    Mar 10, 2023 at 11:36
  • If really nobody notices that there is one guy there doing great stuff (including his manager) then either 1) the company is a disaster or 2) the guy is not that smart, he should have left already. Or, the guy is already paid a lot, and a bonus is not really interesting for him. As I said: the system is not perfect because the people implementing it are not perfect.
    – virolino
    Mar 10, 2023 at 11:43
  • At my place of work, we do precisely this. We nominate a person for an exceptional bit of work. All those nominations are read out at the next team meeting. (<s>Wasting</s> Spending time reading through them all keeps the number of nominations reasonable). Sometimes a random nomination is drawn for a small gift card. The manager also puts in nominations - these will include the solo workers since the manager is very aware of these people even if the larger group isn't.
    – FreeMan
    Mar 10, 2023 at 14:27
  • This is how military medals work. Peers or superiors (and in one case, the enemy captain) nominate someone for a medal and it is up to higer ups (eg. the President or Queen/King) who then decide if it should be awarded.
    – slebetman
    Mar 10, 2023 at 17:48
  • @virolino The problem is not that "nobody notices that there is one guy there doing great stuff", the problem is, that people that do notice may not nominate that person. Solo workers do not have a large network in the company and such a network seems required to get a nomination. Mar 11, 2023 at 10:18

Our company is big on giving praise where praise is due.

No, it isn't. What it is big on is not taking responsibility for managerial tasks like identifying top performers, with the result that it's made doing so its employees' problem, which as you've already discovered can only result in a popularity contest circlejerk.

I am asking for ideas or examples of how others have solved this type of issue.

Hire someone who has done 5 minutes of management training. Identifying and rewarding top performers, so that they remain with the company and continue to perform highly and thus add more value to the company, is management 101.

  • 4
    I have to -1 despite wanting to +1. While this identifies the problem with pin point accuracy, why not also offer the solution, especially if it's as simple as "5 minutes of management training"? Just telling "go hire someone X" is not helpful.
    – Aida Paul
    Aug 23, 2023 at 6:15

You can try pulling the customer into the loop, gathering their feedback in rewarding good performers.

This can be done by simply asking customers to evaluate the field team after their work, and to give praises and/or recommendation for improvements.

In this way even a solo worker can get the chance to shine.

  • 8
    For teams with customer facing work, this is great way to recognise contributions, but this wouldn't work for people working in the backside. This would be heavily biased to favour those who just redirect hard work to other people rather than those actually doing the hard work of solving the problem. Just because the customer don't see them, doesn't mean that their contribution to a customer's problem isn't meaningful.
    – Lie Ryan
    Mar 10, 2023 at 11:54

Have an Electoral College

Right, put the pitchforks down, I'm not trying to bring actual Politics here.

But let's just remind ourselves what the idea of the Electoral College is:

It is a check-and-balance to the reality that most of the population (Workers) reside in a few large cities (Teams) and that they tend to vote a certain way (For each other) and to stop sparsely populated areas from being dominated by hyper-populated areas.

Essentially the US Founding Fathers had realized the same problem you have and put a system in place to counterbalance that.

I'd suggest that you have a weighting applied to each person/group - something like the inverse of the proportion of the Company.

e.g. Person A is in Team A, that comprises 50% of the company - their votes are divided by their percentage e.g. divided by 0.5.

Person B is in Team B, that has 10% of the company - their votes are divided by 0.1.

If you have the means to, you could also weight it so that votes from outside the team carry more weight than those inside the team (but that would start to get very tricky)

  • 4
    I think this could be improved by leaving out the politics and just explaining the idea more clearly. After all, 95.75% of the worlds population have no idea what the "electoral college" is.
    – nvoigt
    Mar 10, 2023 at 12:02
  • Sorry, just because this suggested scheme is a bit confusing; your examples Person A and Person B are the nominees for the award? So let's say person A belongs to Team A which has 50% of the population of the company, and person B belongs to team B which has 10% of the population of the company, then the votes for A are divided by 0.5 and the votes for B are divided by 0.1, regardless of the teams of the people who cast those votes?
    – Ertai87
    Mar 10, 2023 at 22:41
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    – V2Blast
    Sep 6, 2023 at 19:34

We are trying to work out a way to recognise our deployed people who do amazing work, but don't have the team size to get them the most votes.

"Votes" are the mistake.

Of course it has devolved into "voting for our own" by large teams. And of course it will devolve into "it's your turn to get the votes".

Instead, allow folks to nominate someone who they think is doing amazing work, but have a panel of judges decide who gets the recognition. Upper management can decide how to populate the panel.


I really don't like that awards are given through a "popular" process: a company is not a democracy and I think you need always someone who should be held accountable for every decision. The process you have in place is basically counting how many friends you got in the company.

This does not imply that you can not gather inputs from anyone and you have to. My favourite process is as follow:

  • Every employee has a line manager.
  • The line manager collects inputs from anyone regarding their direct reports work.
  • The line manager decides whether to propose one or more of their direct reports for an award. In doing so, the line manager collects feedbacks and other data (KPIs that measure how well a project went). LMs submit their proposal to the committee and are called to defend their proposals.
  • A committee of senior people is nominated to analyse every proposal and decide who to award and who not.

Line Managers can not risk to nominate everyone without a harm in reputation. The committee should be wise enough to realise that one should not be penalised just because they worked in small projects.

  • 2
    This has the problem in that often times managers fails to understand the actual impact of certain people, particularly those that they don't need to interact often with. The effect is that the award is given to those who are good at kissing the managers ass rather than those who are actually doing impactful work. And then the part where senior people does the final selection is counterproductive to recognising unrecognised workers, as senior management are most of the time too far away removed actual work on the ground to actually provide meaningful contribution to the selection process.
    – Lie Ryan
    Mar 10, 2023 at 11:47
  • If we assume that people (and managers in particular) are incompetent, we will never reach anything remotely valid. The line managers should be caring enough to know their direct reports work quality and defend it in front of a committee. The committee decides, does not select anything. The committee should approve if line managers provide a good case for the award: great feedbacks, impactful work and client satisfaction.
    – nicola
    Mar 10, 2023 at 11:53
  • 1
    Consider a very impactful contributor who makes the life of many other employees easier, more efficient, and pleasant for everyone. Problem is, this employee work on a different building than the line manager, so the manager only sees them for half an hour every few months. There's no way for the manager to fully appreciate the contribution this individual has made, that person is going to be skipped for the award, even though for the other people in the building, they would easily recognise this person as the MVP on that building.
    – Lie Ryan
    Mar 10, 2023 at 12:31
  • 1
    And what would that committee be able to add to this selection process? They don't really know any of the people they're selecting, so they have to rely solely on the strength of the argument from the LM. Which brings another problem in that if your LM just isn't very good at championing for your cause, then you're screwed through no fault of your own. The system you're proposing here is bad not just when LM is incompetent, but because it's systematically and fundamentally flawed. It gives the responsibility deciding on the award to those who are the least suitable for making these decisions.
    – Lie Ryan
    Mar 10, 2023 at 12:41
  • 1
    I really don't agree with what you are saying. A committee member will see in LM's proposal who gave positive feedbacks, which are the KPIs on the employer's work and can ask to anyone involved more details. They have seniority to understand how people generally perform and compare multiple proposals and feedbacks. It's pretty naive to think that such decision couldn't be made by someone who didn't directly work with you. Basically (almost) every decision in a company that impacts you is not made by your next coworker (and for good reasons)
    – nicola
    Mar 10, 2023 at 12:46

Frequent small recognition has more impact than rare major recognition. My employer had a system where anyone could issue up to four "Thanks Awards" per year to anyone they felt deserved one. Each award was only about $25, so it honestly wasn't worth trying to game the system. But the simple fact that someone felt your help had made enough of a difference to them to be recognized did feel good, especially when unexpected.

The absolutely-no-cost recognition program would be to simply encourage people to email thanks for specific assistance with a copy to the person's manager -- and for managers to recognize those as part of their evaluations. That lets the manager judge how significant the assistance was, which again makes trying to play games impractical. And this one doesn't have to wait for an official company program; you can start doing it informally immediately.

For larger awards, yes, it needs to be something management discusses and agrees upon, not a popularity contest. There's no harm in soliciting input for that decision, but democracy and meritocracy are different things.


Recognizing performance of solo workers is great, but I think you do it from the wrong perspective. It should be about the best products or solutions first and then about people behind them.

This approach would lead to a healthier competition followed by more innovation and better performance than starting with people, because then it's like in your example all about themselves.

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