How to be fair at a company picnic awarding door prizes...
May 18, 2016 5:04 PM   Subscribe

Ok, so we have around 10 big/nice door prizes to give away. We were also going to give out door prizes that were more like gag prizes (seat cushions, t-shirts, cups, etc). We had planned on giving all the 120 employees a ticket to put in a fish bowl and then draw the winners names out at random.

Now the Management is questioning the fairness of an employee that has been there 30-60 days winning one of these grand prizes and the employees that have been there years not. How is a fair way to do this? I dread the thoughts of telling these new employees they aren't eligible for the door prizes. Any suggestions welcome!
posted by just asking to Society & Culture (29 answers total)
Have members of management (who should not be competing anyway, if they're concerned about being unfair to long-term employees) write the name of a long-term employee on their tickets. That at least gives your proven people a bit of a leg up, and no one is the wiser.
posted by DrGail at 5:08 PM on May 18, 2016 [6 favorites]'s a door prize. I doubt anyone is going to be questioning the fairness of a new employee winning one, unless there is some sort of weird shenanigans with the way the drawing is done or unless there is a ton of resentment in your office (which door prize allocations is not really going to fix if it already exists). The door prizes are supposed to be fun, not a chore (which trying to put all sorts of rules and regulations on who may participate is going to do). Could you ask a few long-term employees, get their ok with just doing a regular door prize drawing, and then report back to management?

If management wants to reward long-time employees, they should just do that, not by giving door prizes.
posted by rainbowbrite at 5:08 PM on May 18, 2016 [59 favorites]

That's lightly uncool, but I guess you get two different color tickets and give one color to the probationary employees and if one of them is drawn for the big prize it goes back in the bucket and another is drawn.

The other thing you can do, which I have seen done, is that employees with 10+ years get 4 tickets, 5-10 get 3, 1-5 get 2, less than a year get 1. Or something like that, you get the drift.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:08 PM on May 18, 2016 [13 favorites]

That's silly. Bonuses are for rewarding merit and longevity. Random prizes are for fun.
posted by Kriesa at 5:09 PM on May 18, 2016 [49 favorites]

How legitimate of a concern is this? By the time of the picnic, will you have a lot of employees that have only been there 30 days? Or is it like maybe you have 1-2 new hires, and those new hires might by some small chance win the raffle?

Also... does management feel like the new hires suck and doesn't want any of them to have the chance of winning a prize? I'm not really following their logic where the newbies somehow don't count or deserve to win a raffle. Being a new hire doesn't make you a bad person.

If you want to give big prizes to the people with the most seniority, do that, not a raffle.

The only way I think you can get away with a raffle where some people aren't eligible is if maybe the new hires are short term temps and you can just not give them a ticket to the raffle/not invite them to the picnic at all. Which still sucks, but sucks a lot less than being an employee in good standing but being told you can't participate in the raffle for nebulous reasons that make no sense.
posted by Sara C. at 5:13 PM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

Now the Management is questioning the fairness of an employee that has been there 30-60 days winning one of these grand prizes and the employees that have been there years not.

It's a door prize, not an award of merit. They need a separate recognition program for people they want to laud for longevity.
posted by Miko at 5:14 PM on May 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

IMO "everyone has the same chance" is the fairest possible way to do it.

It's common enough that people who've been with the company longer are higher in the organization that "seniority" is used for both. So routing the prizes to the old timers also is more likely to wind up giving the prizes to the people with the most clout, and the most pay, which basically is like saying "fuck you" to the rest of the employees.
posted by aubilenon at 5:18 PM on May 18, 2016 [18 favorites]

Yeah, nobody is going to question a new person winning a door prize. It's a random drawing. Everyone understands that. Giving a select few unusually long-time employees an extra ticket as a prize for loyalty probably wouldn't make anyone upset either. Likewise people who have been especially notable during the last year -- I like the idea of awarding an extra ticket to "unsung heroes," admin staff or support people who went above and beyond the call of duty for none of the glory. You just have to do it publicly, thanking them in front of everyone for what they did, so it's not shady at all. And you have to keep the bonus tickets to a small fraction of the total so it's "giving a few people a bonus" and not "penalizing a small group" (new hires).

This is one of those situations where the more you intervene with artificial "fairness" rules, the more suspicious it looks and there more resentful people get. Random drawing is the path of least disgruntlement.
posted by ctmf at 5:25 PM on May 18, 2016 [9 favorites]

I nth that your management is being insane about this. Random is random. It will only really tick off the new employees to be deliberately excluded.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:27 PM on May 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

"Here's your random prize new employee! Enjoy it!" is a nice way to say welcome and this might be a company where you want to stick around because we treat everyone equally as much as we can. Any longtime employee who is going to get in a huff about this is probably well down the disaffected track anyway.
posted by Gotanda at 5:34 PM on May 18, 2016 [8 favorites]

Another on the side of true randomness here, but if it's seriously a sticking point give people a (rounded up) ticket for each year they've worked there.
posted by lucidium at 5:39 PM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

The best raffle I've ever encountered was at a company that had a range of salaries from ~$20,000 to ~$50,000,000. The door prizes were awarded based on a long quiz about the people in the company (there are three sets of twins who work here, name them! or How do you spell Mike K's last name? or How many people got engaged this year? -- that kind of thing). The person with the highest score got the grand prize. As you might expect, it was the assistant operations manager, who had to be in the trenches with all the people day in and day out. The really rich people didn't know any of the answers. The grand prize was a year's lease on a new Corvette.
posted by janey47 at 5:41 PM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

If this happened in my workplace, people would probably tease the person and say "Boooo - not fair, newb!" and then proceed to never think of it again because it is not actually unfair.
posted by gatorae at 5:51 PM on May 18, 2016 [11 favorites]

Yeah, I'd agree with those that say that a raffle's a raffle, and everyone should have an equal chance. The raffles we have at my company are pretty much all like that. If you *must* give some sort of nod to longevity or whatever, then give that set of people more tickets, and be prepared for complaints in the other direction about fairness.

That said, if management is concerned about this, maybe it's a sign that maybe their overall compensation is out of whack? If they're worried that a fair drawing would alienate long-timers, that sounds like they know that said employees are unsatisfied with their current compensation. Not that you can actually do anything about this, obviously, but if you want to use that as an argument for doing a fair raffle, feel free.
posted by Aleyn at 6:07 PM on May 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

My experience says that the last message that new and provisional employees need to hear is another reminder that they're less deserving.
posted by wotsac at 6:10 PM on May 18, 2016 [25 favorites]

I work at a place with lots of long-term staff, and on Staff Appreciation Day there is a separate breakfast where people making milestone anniversaries (5 years, 10, 51, 20, 25, 30, even 40 years!) and their manager attend. The folks hitting 15 years or more each get a little speech about them and a special gift; then everyone there gets a pin with their years of service on it, plus a common gift.

That afternoon at the lunch for everyone, there are raffles for every employee.

Contractors can't attend, and the campus cops & Help Desk operators can't attend, but everyone else does.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:25 PM on May 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Here is what we did at my company when we were auctioning off a 1963 (I think) Thunderbird. We gave every employee one free ticket. Then, we gave them all a chance to buy more tickets at $50 each with all the money collected going to charity. This gives each employee a chance to up their own odds of winning according to their willingness to donate to charity. I recall we limited the tickets to 5 per person so that no one wealthy employee could buy the raffle. It also made it so that even if a short term employee won, no one knew the odds of that person winning and there was generally no resentment because the money went to charity. Maybe the firm will also match the amount of money collected in ticket sales thus doubling the amount donated to charity.

I think you should lower the cost of the charity tickets to something much less that is a loose function of the value of the top prize. Say $5 or $10. You can also give out the free tickets based on bands of years of service. 1ticket for 0-5 years, 2 for 6-10, etc.
posted by AugustWest at 7:17 PM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I would push back on Management's thinking; they're being really petty, treating older staff like jealous children, and showing total disregard for new employees.

It seems highly unlikely that all 10 "nice" prizes would go to 30 day employees...and if by some math miracle they did, that would be hilarious and great for morale. Which I thought was the point of a company picnic.

The fun of a raffle is it's random, thus completely fair. I agree with others that if management wants to reward senior staff, they should do so but not hijack the company raffle for that purpose.

Seriously, I would push back on this. Nobody wants to go to their company picnic and lean there are "tiers" to what should be a lighthearted raffle, and they're not worthy of the top one!
posted by kapers at 7:46 PM on May 18, 2016 [12 favorites]

And whatever you do, make sure it's completely transparent -- if everyone doesn't have an equal shot they need to know that. No rigging the game (secret codes, looking for the right color tickets, etc.) You'll get caught. And then there really will be resentment.
posted by kapers at 7:58 PM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

Decreasing the randomness of the winner selection decreases fairness correspondingly.

Think about it a bit more - if you make day 30-60 employees ineligible, you're saying that a day 59 employee is so worthless that they shouldn't get a chance at a freaking door prize (which is already incredibly insulting)....but a day 61 employee magically becomes totally deserving? I would be pissed in that situation if I were an employee newer than 60d, and angry on their behalf if I were an employee older than 60d.

If the management is unhappy about new employees getting expensive door prizes, decrease the value of the door prizes and/or award them for merit rather than randomly. Putting in some arbitrary cutoff for who's allowed to win door prizes is very unfair and (perhaps more importantly to "management") as a result many people will get angry about it...whereas it's very unlikely that any reasonable person will be unhappy if a new employee wins a random door prize contest.
posted by randomnity at 10:32 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nthing sticking with the original random drawing plan. As others have said, these are door prizes. The whole point is for them to be random and fun!

Ask A Manager on a similar question - but this was about a raffle that was rigged. (Spoiler alert: It caused bad feelings.)
posted by SisterHavana at 11:04 PM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I agree that totally random should be fine and if management wants to dwarf long time employees to do it separately, but I don't hate the idea of giving people one chance in the raffle per year of employment (or some other tiered system or whatever).
posted by Rock Steady at 3:47 AM on May 19, 2016

I have to question....what kind of culture is your management engendering if they are concerned people are going to get upset about something as light and frivolous as door prizes? Is there something more going on at the company where people have past behaviors of getting upset over such things? Or is management known for always favoring longer serving employees to the detriment of training and growing younger, newer employees? This thinking is so far off anything I'd consider reasonable that it makes me really wonder what led to this complete non-issue becoming an AskMe question......are people appropriately compensated? Are the benefits decent? Do you have regular raises? Do you have an employee recognition system for when people go above and beyond or have served the organization for a number years? If so, then this is a tempest in a toy teacup. If not, then I can see how this would become a thing for longer serving employees who may be frustrated with their situations, in which case management should address those issues by improving all of the above and maybe giving people raises and/or better benefits instead of using money on a company picnic.....

My equivalent company event raises money for one of our student services office, so we're actually expected to BUY tickets for the raffles at our events. It's for a good cause and education is a different kind of organization and attending the event isn't required or expected. Actually, several years ago one employee won a ridiculous such prize on her second day of work. It was a garden gnome made by another employee. It was absurd. She got ribbed about it endlessly. She put it on her desk and dressed it up and for awhile it became the mascot for her academic department. Now she no longer works there and I had completely forgotten this had happened until this question. 'Cause it was fun and frivolous and had no bearing on her working relationship with anyone.

If prizes were to be given away for free at one of our events, everyone would go, "Wooohoo!!!" and then that'd be that and likely no one would remember who won what three days later because we have jobs to do.
posted by zizzle at 4:22 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

My agency had a raffle at an work event and somebody who's been there exactly one week won the big prize. A brand new iPhone with free lifetime service. It caused some major crap talking afterward.

The perks are far and few between and we're not paid all that well, so it really kinda stunk for those of us who've been there a while. We all work overtime for nothing and work our butts off because we love the mission.

What they COULD have done, was give everyone an extra raffle ticket per year of employment. Even if she'd still won, we would have at least felt considered.
posted by smirkyfodder at 4:59 AM on May 19, 2016

Your management is being idiotic. As others have said, the whole point of a random drawing is that newbie hire or Joe at the end of the packaging line who makes $10 an hour may go home with the smoker while Assistant VP of Packaging Stan gets a potholder. This is 99% of the fun. If anyone should be excluded or their chances quietly deprecated, it should skew against the senior people, who presumably make a lot more money and can buy their own damn barbecue grills, Yeti coolers, etc.

I used to work for people who worried a lot that their employees might accidentally benefit more than the bare minimum required from their employment there, and it was painful sometimes. But even they knew better than to screw with the door prizes.

Anecdote: when I worked for the aforementioned company, I had a MINIMUM WAGE SUMMER HIRE who worked for me take home the best door prize. Said incident was the hit of the party, and the thing they were still talking about next year, and as others have said this is the entire point of doing door prizes.
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:35 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

smirkyfodder - you guys weren't angry about the phone. You were angry about working overtime for nothing the other 364 days of the year. And I don't blame you.
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:37 AM on May 19, 2016 [8 favorites]

Will you hold this raffle every year? If so, each additional year that an employee stays with the company will give them an extra chance to win, no extra tickets required.
posted by daisyace at 11:51 AM on May 19, 2016

Nope, not a problem.

Problem is if management (especially if they're 'fishing out' the tickets or otherwise administering the game) participates (and wins the big ticket item(s)).

Boy, was no-body impressed.
posted by porpoise at 1:16 PM on May 19, 2016

Yeah, nobody is going to question a new person winning a door prize.

I've worked jobs where people did complain about stuff like this. (Or about too many people from one table winning prizes, which... we sat down randomly, so wtf?) The rest of the employees will look at them like they're big, whiny babies and life will go on as usual.
posted by MsMolly at 2:44 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

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