Retaining Staff by Rewarding Contributions Fairly


Are your employees comfortable making suggestions and bringing forth ideas about your products and services? Or do they feel stifled and that nobody cares about their opinion? Your answer to this question could reveal whether you’ll have trouble retaining staff. Why? Because your team members, especially your knowledge workers, want to contribute meaningfully to what’s happening in the organization.

Unfair Reward Systems Harm the Goal of Retaining Staff

Hyunsun Park and co-​researchers Subra Tangirala and Insiya Hussain studied over 1,000 workers and how managers interacted with them. Many employees reflect on their interactions with managers and modify their behavior with the goal of succeeding in the organization. It turns out, managers may subconsciously be training their teams members not to share ideas.

How does this happen? Busy managers fall into a comfortable pattern of interacting with employees. When they ask for ideas in a meeting, they “often take credit themselves for creating an environment that they felt had enabled employees to speak up.” In this situation, when an employee makes a suggestion, the manager thanks them and moves on.

Meanwhile, other employees, especially those who are more aggressive and politically savvy, will suggest a change in process or a product enhancement to a manager without prompting. According to Park’s research, managers in these cases find the employee to be proactive. They also decide the employee is “a strong candidate for a raise, high-​profile project, or promotion.” It’s easy to see how this happens. A busy manager appreciates being handed a well-​times solution to a problem. And the one-​on-​one encounter with the eager employee stands apart from the chaos that can take place during an ideation strategy meeting.

Other research shows that managers also tend to reward the most vocal participants in a meeting. Consider the scenario in which a soft-​spoken and thoughtful employee offers a fabulous idea. The more extroverted team members then discuss various aspects of the idea. They refine it until they come up with a workable product or service concept.

Who typically gets rewarded in these scenarios? If you guessed it is the vocal employees, you’re right. They might find a bonus in their paycheck or be put on the fast track for a promotion. Meanwhile, the person who initially submitted the idea is seething. And when that happens, your goal of retaining staff has become more challenging.

Avoiding Favoritism

Our research shows that 28% of sales professionals have left organizations when they feel nobody seemed to care about them. When managers fail to recognize individual contributions or they overtly reward an employee for what was a team effort, they’re showing favoritism.

Managers might like to think employees are altruistic and are dedicated to the success of an organization. That is true to some extent, but your team members are paying attention to what’s happening with their co-​workers. In fact, 34% of employees we surveyed felt one of their manager’s greatest weaknesses was holding others accountable. And 32% stated that their managers needed to use more fairness in assigning leads and work assignments.

Rewarding Contributions Fairly

This research shows how important it is for managers to avoid bias and think about ways to fairly compensate team members for developing ideas. Managers should also be aware of what motivates each employee on a team. Some team members yearn for a chance to shine in front of upper management. Other employees only want you to show them the money. The results from a comprehensive assessment platform provide these valuable insights and will help managers in retaining staff.

Photo from Campaign Creators on Unsplash

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C. Lee Smith

C. Lee Smith

CEO and Founder at SalesFuel
C. Lee Smith is the CEO and Founder of SalesFuel - a firm he founded in 1989. He was named one of the 14 Leading Sales Consultants by Selling Power magazine. Lee is the creator of the AdMall® and the TeamTrait™ SaaS platforms. He is also a Gitomer Certified Advisor, C‑Suite Network Advisor and Certified Behavioral Analyst.
C. Lee Smith


CEO of @SalesFuel | Bestselling Author of "SalesCred" | Keynote Speaker | Certified Behavioral Analyst | Global Sales Credibility Authority
If Columbus had an MLB team, you can bet it WOULD be Columbus! — 2 days ago
C. Lee Smith