Is Employee of the Month a Good Idea? Here’s How It Can Go Wrong

Many years ago, the Employee of the Month program was highly popular. Today, not so much (only about 34% of companies still implement this employee recognition program). This might make you ask, “Is Employee of the Month a good idea?” 

Quick answer: no. And I’ll give you 7 reasons why it can go wrong. But of course, it’s good to have a recognition program. This is why I’ll also list 6 better alternatives to the Employee of the Month award. So let’s dive in!

7 Reasons the Employee of the Month Award Isn’t the Best Idea

Here are 7 reasons why you should ditch the Employee of the Month award and exchange it for a better alternative:

  1. It only recognizes one person
  2. It’s susceptible to bad selection criteria
  3. It can create unhealthy competition
  4. The focus is on recognition, not performance
  5. It can make managers lazy
  6. It only rewards 12 workers a year 
  7. It’s prone to ignore recognition without reward

1. It only recognizes one person

Karishma Bhatnagar from says, “In many companies, it is not a single person who achieves goals, but rather a group of individuals.” Remember, teamwork makes the dream work

Well, you can already see why the Employee of the Month program isn’t a good idea. Only one employee is eligible for the award. This means that you’re ignoring the work of his or her team members. So much for teamwork!

Read More: 75+ Impactful Recognition and Appreciation Words for Employees

2. It’s susceptible to bad selection criteria

What exactly are the criteria for being the “best” employee of the month? Is it their performance? How well they present ideas at a meeting? The most confident person? What?

There’s no clear-cut definition of how you choose the winning employee. This can lead to all kinds of problems. For one, a manager might choose based on favoritism. Even if someone is worthy of the award, the performer will not know why they were recognized in the first place if there is no clear reason why they won.

3. It can create unhealthy competition

In one study, it was discovered that employee happiness in the workplace increased productivity by 12%. If you want your employees to be happy (and productive), you need to encourage a positive work environment. 

An Employee of the Month program can do the opposite. It can encourage workers to compete in an unhealthy way. Instead of working together, they’ll try to outperform and surpass each other. As Unique Training & Development puts it, “Compete with outside competitors, not between people and departments within.”

Moreover, this can make many employees feel demotivated. If they work so hard but don’t get recognized for it, that will lower their morale. 

4. The focus is on recognition, not performance

You’ll be surprised how many people in the workplace know how to fake it till they make it (and no, I don’t mean that in a good way). They can be great slackers at work, but during a meeting, they are the ones with so many questions and ideas to make the focus on them. 

For a manager who doesn’t know any better, these people are the ones who get recognized. Unfortunately, that leaves the top performers with nothing. 

OK, say the manager is wise. They take the time to select a worthy winner. This produces another problem, especially if the reward is a bonus. The employees will focus more on achieving that bonus instead of improving their performance. 

5. It can make managers lazy

Do you want to boost employee engagement and intrinsic motivation? A study showed that 48% of workers have higher engagement rates and are highly motivated with regular recognition. Now, if there is a once-a-month award in place, managers are more likely to just focus on that. They will ignore the day-to-day recognition and encouragement that are highly needed in the workplace. 

6. It only rewards 12 workers a year 

There are 12 months in a year. That means only 12 employees get rewarded each year. And how many employees are there in the team? Let alone the whole company? 

Because of this, so many workers with outstanding performance will be overlooked. How demotivating, especially if they work hard to bring success to the company every single day. 

7. It’s prone to ignore recognition without reward

Programs like “Employee of the Month” can create a reward mindset. It might influence a manager to think that recognition means reward. So since they only give out one reward a month, they don’t provide any recognition besides that. 

This is wrong. Daily recognition is so important in the workplace. Also, it’s good to show your employees that earning a “Best Employee of the Month” certificate and reward is not the only good thing. Getting recognized and praised for your hard work is a much better achievement. 

Best Employee of the Month Alternatives to Boost Employee Recognition 

Is Employee of the Month a good idea? We already established that it isn’t the best idea as there are so many ways it can go wrong. So what are better alternatives to Employee of the Month? Here are 6 great suggestions:

  • Peer-to-peer recognition. With this program, all employees are encouraged to provide positive feedback and highlight the accomplishments of their colleagues. In a way, it’s as if the employees nominate someone who deserves to be recognized. And yes, this should be done regularly. 
  • A team reward. As I said, an entire team contributes to the success of a project. So instead of singling out one person a month, why don’t you reward everyone on the team? Can you imagine how cooperative everyone will become? It’s great to create a culture of unity and teamwork. 
  • 60/60 program. The 60/60 program was created by Omelet. Here, employees are allowed to spend 2 hours a week on their passion. This type of recognition shows that you respect each individual and their different passions within the workspace. And when you respect them, they will respect you. 
  • Reward for different categories. A program like “Employee of the Month” usually doesn’t have good criteria to base the winner’s nomination. A good way to counter that is to have many different reward categories. You can reward the workers who always arrive early. You can reward team members who effectively address challenges and devise solutions under pressure. Don’t worry, the reward doesn’t have to be too extravagant. A preferred parking slot is good enough. 
  • Recognition Day. You can make it fun by throwing a Recognition Day celebration. This can be a workplace party or going out for a team dinner. While you’re at it, the manager hands out rewards for different actions. This can be something that everyone can look forward to. 
  • Success stories. Create a program that highlights the success stories or achievements of different employees across various departments. This workplace “paper” can showcase a diverse range of talents and accomplishments.

Final Words

Is Employee of the Month a good idea? Since it’s so prone to injustice and other errors, it’s better to avoid it. Instead, you can come up with a more friendly recognition program, such as peer-to-peer recognition, the 60/60 program, or a fun Recognition Day. This will make everyone motivated to work harder. 

About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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