✍ General Manager (CEO) wants departments to nominate and vote on a departmental employee of the year, and then all staff organization wide will vote on that pool to select an org-wide employee of the year. It feels icky and like it may just end up being a popularity contest, and also not very culturally appropriate for the culture we represent, which holds the value of humility high. I appreciate the desire for employee recognition, but I’m not convinced voting is a great way to do that. Thoughts?

Context: Tribal government, 7 departments, about 125 employees

Morgan Stanley, Head of People at Lithic: 

My first question would be: What is the end goal of this vote? What are the tenets of an ’employee of the year’ at your company? What is the reason behind showcasing someone from every department but having the whole company vote?

What I have found in the past that helps with this situation and avoids – as much as possible – the popularity aspect, is to have two different votes occurring.

  1. An Employee of the Year award that is selected by the leadership team and is based on (1) outstanding performance and service to the company, and (2) is a constant and consistent upholder of the company values. I’d require that leadership submit rationale behind why THIS individual was the most valuable over the course of a year.
  2. A values based award: If you have a value that is something like ‘Be Kind’, you can then have that be a company wide vote.

This way you can recognize great performance and acknowledge the importance of living your cultural values. Gives the GM what he wants in terms of a company-wide vote, but hopefully reduces the popularity aspect. My biggest concern with a company wide vote for an ‘Employee of the Year’ award is that it can be difficult for peers to discern who is a top performer and who is not.

  Cassandra Babilya, Head of EEx Strategy at Amazon: 

Similar to Morgan’s approach, I’ve run quarterly/annual employee recognition awards by starting with company values or mission:

  1. Award categories: Define your award categories and how they directly tie to your overall company goals.
  2. Nomination criteria: Get clear on nomination criteria (what does good look like) and expected format (e.g., submit in SMART).
  3. Call for nominations: Open nominations up to everyone! Everyone gets an opportunity to submit a colleague to be recognized (or even themselves).
  4. LT review: Leadership reviews nominations and decides on winners. This ensures nominees are in good standing, etc and that good work wasn’t overlooked/overshadowed by the loudest person in group.
  5. Presentation: For annual awards, make a big deal about the winners AND share exactly how their work contributed to the overall success of the company.

✍ What are some ways to help with grief and loss in the workplace, especially around the holiday season?

Context: We are a private medical practice and one of our physicians passed away this week after an illness. She was 42 years old and has been with the practice for about 10 years.

Laura García-Courrau, Global Director of HR at Our World Energy: 

This is what I did for the first 2-3 months when our co-founder passed away unexpectedly at a former company:

Hold a group grief session, if possible, with a counselor. Make it OK for folks to express their sadness and pain in community with their peers, They are in pain for themselves and feeling pain for her family/loved ones.

Is there a means of supporting her family? I think the staff would appreciate that, and would take all that energy into something that feels productive.

Create/support a means to honor her contributions to the organization. What was one of the things she was most passionate about? Is there a way to turn that into an action/initiative? Community involvement? A scholarship?

When our co-founder died (also a patient-facing healthcare company), I held a one-day “retreat” where we talked about everything we learned from and loved about her. And we decided we wanted to make what she brought to the org more real. In our case that ended up yielding our core values, and the annual company picnic was named after her.


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Right now it’s about addressing your teams grief and shock, especially being in a caregiving field, and the time of year.

For the next 2 months, I’d address the shock, the burnout and compassion fatigue this grief will bring. There is no margin for error when you’re in healthcare, so the team is going to need all the support they can get so patients are still receiving top-notch care.

After the first 2 months, I’d start thinking about how you can preserve her memory and contribution to the practice, that is in line with her role/level in the org. This will help folks feel a sense of hope and optimism about not letting her feel forgotten without skipping over the feel your feelings part of the process.

You will also need to check on/create space for the owner/clinical director. There will likely be a desire to push forward from them just because they want to make sure the staff have a chance to grieve and will not really allow themselves the opportunity to do the same. This can be perceived badly by some staff, so I would recommend giving that person some high-touch now, as well.

So sorry for your loss. It is such a strange experience to navigate in a work setting because people inevitably feel afraid to express their hurt in a professional environment. Make sure you are making room for YOU to grieve as well. This shouldn’t fall all on your shoulders. You need space to process as well. Sending hugs.

I’m open to chatting more separately about what we did, and what the company is still doing to honor her.

Hebba Youssef
Hebba Youssef

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