Culture & Competency

In a Collaborative Culture, Do You Reward Individuals or the Team?

On Human Capital League, Darcy tackles the topic of whether rewarding individuals is a good or bad thing in a collaborative culture.

The positions posed are:

– Option 1. Rewarding individuals is essential for teamwork, because it helps individuals feel motivated and part of the team. One executive suggested highlighting the contributions the individual made to the success of the team. A CEO went so far as to say that it “injects a healthy sense of competition within teams.”

– Option 2. Reward the team as a whole.

Michael’s Comments
1. Words are a funny thing, and “collaborative culture” and “teams” can mean so many different and varied things. If we are talking about a specific team, with a specific objective to attain together, with clear roles and responsibilities, I’m against publicly calling out individual contributions. If we’re talking about a more wooly take on “teams” that “we’re all in this together,” then sure, go for it.

2. Within the team, there is scope for team members to recognize each other for the contributions they’ve made. The team members know the blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into achieving high performance, and can then appropriately recognize what individual people have contributed … if that’s necessary.

3. Re the CEO that said individual recognition “injects a healthy sense of competition with teams” … I don’t see it that way. If you expect a team—a specific group of people, with a specific objective to attain together, with clear roles and responsibilities—to handle both deep collaboration and a sense of within-team competition, you’re smoking an illegal substance.

4. Here’s my favorite video from Britains Got Talent 2012. Watch the whole thing, but note Simon’s comments toward the end (from 4m50s). He calls out one individual’s contribution to the “team” (of two), but that individual says “we stand or fail as a team” (at 5m33s). In this case, and sure it’s a data point of one, if that individual accepted the reward it would kill the team.

How do deal with this issue at your organization?

Categories: Culture & Competency

2 replies »

  1. Some good points Michael. But I found the remark by Cisco’s CEO about the individual help to benefit the team mostly important. I believe this to be true, but would like to go even further.
    Organizations today are still structured in 20th century ways, with reward systems aligned to silos. What is really needed is to reward collaboration between silos. As Greg Lowe’s article on breaking down silos makes clear with his example: .
    The individual should be rewarded when collaborating with his team, or beyond with other teams, even when it’s not most beneficial to his own team or himself. I have not seen reward systems in place for this at any client, but believe this to be crucial for success for companies!