Walmart employee shoots co-worker’s car: The good and bad of workplace awards

Winning employee of the month in the workplace can be a confidence boost, but what happens when another worker feels disgruntled?

While most people would keep their negative feelings private, or gossip to other colleagues, in the United States it seems the answer is to shoot the co-worker’s car in anger.

An employee of the month award at a Florida Walmart resulted in criminal charges earlier this month when a man shot a co-worker’s car after she won the award.

Police investigators from the Broward Sheriff’s Office said Walmart employee Willie Mitchell approached the employee of the month following the award and started arguing with her about her workload.

According to CBS4, Mitchell said repeatedly during the argument, “I’m going to show you.”

Hours later, Mitchell fired a shot into her car window, while the employee was not present in the car.

The situation seems pretty unbelievable, and managing director of Our HR Company, Margaret Harrison, told SmartCompany it’s likely there were other motivating factors.

“There were probably more underlying reasons than just the award,” she says.

“The award would have been just a trigger. It’s likely this person was in his sights from the word go.”

If a situation arises where an employee is unhappy with the outcome of an award, the best approach is to initiate a discussion with the staff member, Harrison says.

“You would need to have a really good performance discussion one-on-one with the person and explain why the other employee was chosen and have the metrics there to justify why they were a worthy winner,” she says.

“Do it immediately and if the person is really upset, maybe they need to have a chat to someone like a counsellor because it’s very unusual for a staff member to be so upset.”

Harrison says regardless of the underlying reason for the gun shot, employee awards are rarely good motivators for staff performance.

“They’re (workplace awards) okay in industries where you can measure performance. So industries like call centres, sales, anything people-facing where you can measure numbers and the objective is to get those numbers up,” she says.

“But when it’s totally subjective it doesn’t make sense at all,” she says.

Harrison says in roles which aren’t focused around numbers, the award does not work as a good motivator.

“What’s it even mean, that you’ve done your job well? It becomes far too subjective,” she says.

“Motivators are things like people being recognised for doing a good job on a daily basis – it shouldn’t be stored up for a month. In the workplace money or dinner vouchers aren’t often good motivators, it’s showing someone they’re being valued, they’re trusts as a person and as a contributor.”

Harrison says employee awards generally make no difference, except in numbers-based industries where targets are firmly set.

“The key motivator for staff is the fact they’re recognised for doing a good job, treated like a human being, spoken to properly and having good manners. That’s what’s really lacking in the workplace at the moment, people not caring and managers not even saying please or thank you and just barking orders,” she says.

In a business with motivated staff, the direction of the company is also clearly communicated to all employees, Harrison says.

“Even if times are bad, tell them it’s bad and that you need their help to turn it around. Make your staff feel like they’re making a contribution,” she says.

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