Question about corporate environment etiquette re: "thank you points"
December 17, 2021 1:15 PM   Subscribe

At my job they have a program where individuals can nominate each other for "award points" that can be exchanged for things. I'm looking at it now and there's a huge catalog of things and I apparently have been accumulating these points. If your workplace has a program like this, is there an expectation of reciprocity? Like if someone gives me 50 points, are they doing it because they hope/are expecting I will give them 50 points back?

These are the things I've gotten points for
1. Turning around requests quickly and efficiently
2. I got some points from my team lead for I guess...doing a good job?
3. I got some points for someone I'm partnering with on a project for also doing a good job

I'm not sure if I reciprocate, will I be misunderstanding that this is a hierarchy thing and it was inappropriate of me to assume I'm someone who gives out points when I'm actually not? Or if I do reciprocate, which, when you send points a copy goes to your manager and their manager, will it look like I'm abusing the system if I don't come up with a good enough message?
Or if I don't reciprocate, will I be dropping the ball?

The reason this is freaking me out a little is because I don't want to be depriving my teammates of something their entitled to because some of these things you can order seem very cool. But on the other hand if they didn't send me any points then I wouldn't be thinking about this at all. I definitely don't feel a compulsion to do this for its own sake, so it doesn't feel sincere to me.

If you happen to know the answers to this I would be grateful for your wisdom!
posted by bleep to Society & Culture (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think a lot of this would depend on your workplace culture. I would assume that like gift, points should only go “downhill. Give points to colleagues and those more junior to you. Do you have a set number of points you can give away (per month/quarter/year?) I would give the points in a similar increment that has been previously given to you (ei, don’t send some 5 points when people usually send 50)
posted by raccoon409 at 1:35 PM on December 17, 2021 [7 favorites]

This is a great question for your manager: "Am I allowed to nominate colleagues for award points, or is that something only managers can do?"

At my work the intra company recognition system is anyone can get anyone can give. Right now it doesn't tie to any kind of specific reward, but we've discussed it and we might in the future. It IS something that is nominally considered when someone's being considered for raise or promotion. Really completely depends on your company's culture and standards.

p.s. As an HR person I would also encourage you to dig out the employee handbook or whatever it is you have and ctrl+f for "points" just to be sure you haven't missed something where this is spelled out in exhaustive detail. I spend time every single workday of my life answering basic yes/no questions that can be ctrl+f'd from the company's most easy to access doc.
posted by phunniemee at 1:44 PM on December 17, 2021 [7 favorites]

My company has this kind of program and I've never seen an expectation of reciprocity. My manager actually encourages us to give the quarterly bank of points to someone - anyone! - because the bucket refills every quarter and ungiven points are lost.

PS: The prizes look fun but they're always overpriced. Redeem them as a gift card or prepaid debit card.
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:49 PM on December 17, 2021 [10 favorites]

I agree it depends on the culture of the group, there's no real way we can know. But more importantly, wanted to second redeeming them for gift cards because depending on your tax laws, those gifts are considerable taxable income. So if you're paying 50% tax on something that's got a value listed at 2x what anyone would pay for it... you're effectively buying the gift yourself.
posted by cgg at 2:09 PM on December 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

We have this, there is no expectation of reciprocity. Also, you may want to investigate how the platform works a bit to see the full scope of options. Our program has the capability to do something called "high five" where you can give a small points award on top of another award given. For example, if someone gave a group of people an award together, you can high five and give all those people another few points as well. It's a nice way to acknowledge.
posted by amycup at 2:17 PM on December 17, 2021

I've had this. Embarassingly, I never figured out how to use it to give people points, so I'm probably not a good source of advice. Nobody ever told me I was doing wrong by not reciprocating, but maybe they wouldn't.

When I got points it was usually from someone that was somewhat of a distant "cousin" in the org chart who I'd needed to work with on something, so I got the impression that was mainly what this was for.

I used to dislike getting the points, because they were awkward to spend. In theory you could trade them for gift cards that are kinda almost like cash, but it was a multi-step process and the denominations were such that you always lost something to rounding errors. I made peace with the symptoms after I realized one of the options was to convert 100% of the points into donations to a choice of a few charities (that all looked perfectly respectable), and that was a much simpler process.
posted by bfields at 2:35 PM on December 17, 2021

My company has this, and it is built into the system that you cannot give the peer recognition back to someone who gave one to you within the same quarter. I think it even watches for triangulated giving (A gives to B who gives to C who gives to A).
posted by handful of rain at 2:39 PM on December 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

My big company has this, and in some teams reciprocity is expected - usually in the teams with lower paid positions. Not necessarily to the same person who gave you points, just so you’re getting points out there yo someone. The teams with higher paid positions don’t make a big thing out of them.
posted by acantha at 3:12 PM on December 17, 2021

Best answer: "If your workplace has a program like this, is there an expectation of reciprocity? Like if someone gives me 50 points, are they doing it because they hope/are expecting I will give them 50 points back?"

My workplace has this:

- No expectation of reciprocity. If I send you points, it's b/c you made my life better / I want your manager to know you did good work.

- I don't want it to be a "quid pro quo" so I'd prefer NOT to get points from people I gave points to.

- I don't send points "up" the chain and don't want them from people below me on the corporate ladder.

- It's discouraged to send them between people on the same team. So if you and I are in the same general department, the idea is that we send our points outside to other teams.

Every situation is different but for our org, that's the basics.
posted by jzb at 3:23 PM on December 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: At my work these rewards are nominal amounts of cash, and it's explicitly disallowed by the software running the system to give one to someone who gave you one in the last quarter, or to your management chain. Your workplace may have similar rules.

Try making a monthly or quarterly calendar appointment or something to think about who deserves one, so you don't end up feeling like you are a points sink in the future. If your team leans heavily on these to show appreciation, you should definitely also be awarding them liberally, but don't think of it as a tit-for-tat where you owe someone for giving you one.

These also usually require manager signoff so if you're doing it wrong for your workplace culture you can expect someone will set you straight. You could also probably just ask your manager what the deal is and they can inform you about expectations here; this isn't a weird question to have at all and clearly from this thread workplaces vary a lot in how these bonus systems work on the ground.
posted by potrzebie at 3:47 PM on December 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

I must be old and slow, because I don't understand what stops everybody just giving out as many points as the system will allow, every day, completely at random on the basis that what goes around, comes around rather than any kind of transactional reciprocity.
posted by flabdablet at 3:49 PM on December 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

"completely at random"

Our system is a multi-step process where you have to select an employee, pick one of several awards, and a point value, and then fill out a message to the supervisor of the employee and to the employee themselves. It'd be difficult to do this randomly in a company with more than 20K people.
posted by jzb at 3:55 PM on December 17, 2021

Fair enough. I still think I'd find the temptation to start working methodically through the personnel list, Tehhund style, completely irresistible unless and until my manager shut me down.
posted by flabdablet at 4:01 PM on December 17, 2021 [6 favorites]

In our BigCorp:
  • There is no expectation of reciprocity, and in fact if noticed it is frowned upon
  • We typically send the awards to peers in our same team, or other folks of the same rank/level in other teams. As far as I know, it is not meant to "flow up" (subordinate nominating their manager). I suppose the exception are project managers who are technically your peer but act as a leader/manager on a project; sometimes their project team members also nominate the proj mgr for being a good leader, shielding them from customer drama, etc.
  • It is usually sent as a congrats for finishing a big project/milestone, thanks for helping someone out, or for going above-and-beyond. The system itself has some award levels that guide you: did the nominee finish a 10-min task for you, or grind for 6 months?
  • Getting a lot of nominations do get noticed by management, and puts a nice spotlight on team players and emerging leaders.
  • Managers have to approve them, so they can adjust or reject an award they deem inappropriate.
  • Folks in sales seem to use it a lot for the supporting teams who help them close a deal. My colleague who moved out of my team to more of a product development role said he almost never gets nominated anymore. This obviously depends on the company culture, though.
  • Yes, it is a taxable benefit. I've always redeemed for gift cards / visa debit, and now I make it a habit to go through 95% of the checkout process (get the total $ value of my order) and then redeem a gift card for exactly the same amount, then apply it to my order to complete checkout. It's a bit onerous but, c'mon, free stuff!!
This program has been great in my experience, and one of my fave work perks. In the past year I've been able to gift my family a big stand mixer and ice crusher, pay for a lot of Kindle books, home organizers and a waterpik from Amazon, lots of clothing basics, camping gear, merino wool base layers for winter, etc. etc.
posted by tinydancer at 4:02 PM on December 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Flabdablet, I wish it worked like that! We usually get X number of points to distribute as we see fit, although we can send point-free (if not point-less) e-cards willy nilly.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:08 PM on December 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all, I marked some best answers but all were helpful! One less thing to worry about today!
posted by bleep at 4:16 PM on December 17, 2021

My work has this - but it just goes to a debit card - and there is no expectation of reciprocity. Generally the ‘recognitions’ go to people in other teams or at or below your level in your own team (sometimes up, but never to your own manager ewwww). We get to pick $10 or $25… if you pick $50 it will attract attention. If a recipient gets above some number of recognitions per quarter, a manager will have to approve any new ones.
There are reports of folks giving recognitions back and forth, but that gets busted quickly. Overall, the whole thing is budgeted for so we are encouraged to be collegial and send these cash-bearing messages to ~anyone.
posted by janell at 6:30 PM on December 17, 2021

Points like are for for What gets Rewarded Gets Repeated, and to encourage everyone to Catch Someone Doing Something Right. Somebody shows you a useful shortcut, someone always drives to the Thai place to get 8 - 13 special orders, that person in Accounting who gets what you did and asks a simple question to clarify so you get reimbursed in this paycheck, etc. Look for people doing stuff well, large or small, and reward them with cheer.
posted by theora55 at 8:04 PM on December 17, 2021

In my major corporation anyone can nominate a colleague on the company intranet for "instant thanks" and we're strongly encouraged to do so (I try to recognize two or three people a month), but only people managers can give reward points for the gift catalogue, and only to employees in their direct line of report - so I could be awarded points by my manager or his manager, for example. The policy openly says this is to avoid any expectations of reciprocity.

If that wasn't the case I and could give points, I'd be pretty hesitant to do so to be honest because of that implied expectation. I'd probably involve my manager on some level whenever I did just to cover me.

Sorry, I'm all for a culture of recognition and reward but it must be frustrating to deal with this. Good luck.
posted by fortitude25 at 5:15 AM on December 18, 2021

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