Sorry: you are NOT the most valuable employee

I recently received a resume from a job candidate who, in the section of his resume entitled Awards and Accomplishments, listed the following:

Recipient of the XYZ Company ‘Most Valuable Employee’ Award for November 2010 & February 2011

Now good for him – he’s obviously pretty proud.  Accompanying the bragging rights was, no doubt, a paper certificate with his name hand-calligraphied by his manager’s wife and a 2-for-$20 gift card to the local Applebee’s (I feel free to make this snarky comment based on the industry in which he worked and the location of his employer).

I’m not trying to diminish something that apparently made Joe Applicant feel good.

But what of all his coworkers who were, in essence, told that they were NOT quite as valuable?   Doesn’t it stand to reason that if  Joe was the most valuable then everyone else was less valuable?  What of poor Mary who toiled next to Joe for 14 months – working side-by-side with him, pulling extra shifts, smiling and beaming the whole while?  Mary put up with the long hours, diatribes from management and bullshit from the customers the same as Joe.  And so did Carol and Mac and Ashley and Joshua…

But none of them were told they were valuable – let alone MOST VALUABLE.


I got me to googling, and I found organizations that bestow the following honors/awards:

  • Most Valued Person
  • Best Employee of the Week
  • Excellent Employee

Can you imagine the foolishness that must go in to choosing the Best Employee each WEEK?


Once upon a time I worked for an organization that had an Employee of the Month Program.  It was already in place and I inherited it when I walked in the door into my new position as head of HR.  While it was truly a dysfunctional and ineffective program there was no way that I, as the organizational newbie, was going to pull the plug as a first order of business.   Employees and managers nominated their peers and co-workers – there were forms, rules (“no one can win more than every other year!”) and endless meetings.  Months would arrive and there would be no nominations so the committee had to ‘choose’ someone in order to keep the program alive.  Utter and total crap.

Sweet, smiling, pleasant Mary – who the customers just ADORED! – was nominated every other month even though she usually left her tasks undone each day.  Serious, somber, gruff Katherine worked behind the scenes and accomplished more in a day than most everyone else – yet she never got the nod.  Nor did several hundred other hard-working, dedicated and caring employees.


I’m not a curmudgeon – really.  And I’m certainly not an advocate for ‘everyone needs a trophy.’

Employees want and need real and meaningful recognition for their accomplishments and they should know they’re valued and appreciated. But not at the expense of others feeling slighted and not based on the whim of a nominating committee or the need to pick someone/ANYONE for this week’s award.

Cuz that’s NOT valuable.

From HR Schoolhouse (which Rocks)

By Robin Schooling

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