We all know that rewards are important. When done correctly, they can compensate for above and beyond work, incent positive behaviors, and even create some positive peer pressure. But it is important that the prize actually rewards the given criteria.
Which is why I raised an eyebrow over the past few weeks when the rumors were circulating that Al Gore would win the Nobel Peace Prize, and and I was downright surprised when he actually did yesterday. He is obviously a champion of his belief that we’re on the edge of an environmental disaster created by humans. Disregarding of course that the Earth warms up like this about every 20,000 years, and the average volcanic eruption throws more "pollutants" in the air than several years of human activity. I presume we should all become vegetarian to reduce cow farts. Gore’s co-winner, the United Nations Climate Change Panel, actually contradicts Gore’s presumptions.
But the point of this blog isn’t to discuss passionate beliefs that contradict facts. Let’s talk rewards. Isn’t it the Nobel PEACE Prize, to be given to someone who helps improve the average level of peace in this world? Environmentalism is a noble cause, but only indirectly aligned with true peace. The editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal echoed my feelings.
In Olso yesterday, the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was not awarded to the Burmese monks whose defiance against, and brutalization at the hands of, the country’s military junta in recent weeks captured the attention of the Free World.
The prize was also not awarded to Morgan Tsvangirai, Arthur Mutambara and other Zimbabwe opposition leaders who were arrested and in some cases beaten by police earlier this year while protesting peacefully against dictator Robert Mugabe.
Or to Father Nguyen Van Ly, a Catholic priest in Vietnam arrested this year and sentenced to eight years in prison for helping the pro-democracy group Block 8406.
Or to Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Uyyouni, co-founders of the League of Demanders of Women’s Right to Drive Cars in Saudia Arabia, who are waging a modest struggle to secure basic rights for women in that Muslim country.
Or to Columbian President Alvaro Uribe, who has fought tirelessly to end the violence wrought by left-wing terrorists and drug lords in his country.
It goes on with several more examples from around the world… Russian freedom activists, the architects of peace in Northern Ireland, Chinese bloggers, courageous Iraqi government officials, North and South Korean mediators… you get the picture. The concluding paragraph says it all.
These men and women put their own lives and livelihoods at risk by working to rid the world of violence and oppression. Let us hope they survive the coming year so that the Nobel Prize Committee might consider them for the 2008 award.
And while they are fighting for their own survival, for fundamental human rights, and peaceful coexistence, we can wish Al Gore congratulations as he wings back on his private jet.
So to bring this post back to our own private Idaho, take a look at the results of your reward and recognition programs. Are the criteria clear? Are the individuals and hopefully teams being recognized for achievement against that criteria? Or are you just trying to reward general passionate behavior, however positive, and hand out a few bucks?
There’s wrong with rewarding such behavior. Just don’t marginalize the impact and value of defined awards when doing it.