Inadequate reward and recognition

Inadequate reward and recognition means there is an imbalance between the effort workers put in and the recognition or reward they get. Reward and recognition can be formal or informal.

It is more than not winning an award at work. Inadequate reward and recognition becomes a hazard when it is severe (e.g. very little reward and recognition), prolonged (e.g. long term) or frequent (e.g. happens often). 

Inadequate reward and recognition may include:

  • recognition and rewards that are unfair or biased (e.g. workers are rewarded for others work)
  • not enough feedback or recognition (e.g. workers don’t receive feedback on their work or guidance on how to improve)
  • unfair negative feedback (e.g. criticism on things that are not within a workers control or that they haven’t been taught how to do)
  • limited development opportunities, or
  • not recognising workers’ skills (e.g. micro managing simple tasks).

Identifying and assessing the risks of inadequate reward and recognition

You must identify if psychosocial hazards, including inadequate reward and recognition, are present in your workplace. 

  • Consult workers. Workers may talk about hazards in different ways. For example, they may say they feel stressed, frustrated, undermined or overlooked. They may raise concerns about fairness or lack of feedback.
  • Use surveys and tools. Businesses with more than 20 workers may find the People at Work psychosocial risk assessment tool useful. 
  • Observe work and behaviours. For example, feedback that does not create improvement, or a competitive and uncollaborative culture can be caused by inadequate reward and recognition.
  • Review available information. For example, records of overtime, time off, injuries, incidents or workers’ compensation.
  • Have a way for workers to report and encourage reporting. Treating workers’ concerns seriously and respectfully will help encourage reporting.
  • Identify other hazards present and consider them together. Hazards can interact and combine to create new, changed or higher risks. For example, inadequate reward and recognition may create a higher risk in workplaces with high job demands if workers don’t feel their hard work is noticed.
  • Consider how long, how often and how severely workers are exposed to hazards. The longer, more often and worse the inadequate reward and recognition the higher the risk that workers may be harmed. 

Controlling inadequate reward and recognition

You must eliminate psychosocial risks, or if that is not reasonably practicable, minimise them so far as is reasonably practicable. For example:

  • Be fair and transparent when recognising or rewarding workers.
  • Provide feedback promptly and ensure it is specific, practical and fair.
  • Ensure performance management focuses on things workers can control.
  • Consult workers when deciding on reward or recognition systems (e.g. ensure they are meaningful to workers).
  • Train supervisors on good performance management.
  • Prioritise improvement over blame when having difficult conversations or managing underperformance.

When choosing control measures you must consider all the hazards present and how they may interact and combine. For information on other hazards see psychosocial hazards.  

Reviewing control measures 

You must review control measures to check they are working as planned. If a control measure is not improving the reward or recognition, or is creating new risks, you must make changes.

For more information on meeting your WHS duties see our mental health page.