Marc Long: Are there hidden dangers when staff tip each other?


Peer-to-peer reward technology provides employees with a budget to tip each other small amounts of money each month, to reflect what they consider to be good work.

On the face of it, a scheme that allows co-workers to ‘tip’ colleagues they think are doing a good job is a positive one. It enables everyone to have their say, and the incentives are decided by staff members alone, rather than managers, and published for all to see. This is an innovative way of facilitating 360-degree reviews and a new means by which to give positive feedback, but what are the implications?

The practice of patting someone on the back with a tip could divide staff members and lead to conflict in the workplace. Furthermore, anything where employees can review each other and get a financial benefit is open to abuse. It could unintentionally encourage inappropriate behaviour where groups of staff constantly and artificially reward each other.

Meanwhile, the pressure of feeling that staff need to ingratiate oneself with a particular group of employees or else miss out on a tip could create additional stress and aggravate existing conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

It is also imperative that feedback schemes like this offer equal access and encourage rewards for everyone using them. If someone believes they are being left out because of a protected characteristic, such as their ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation, they may raise the matter formally or may even proceed with an employment tribunal claim.

Provider such as Bonusly and Reward Gateway believe the software will boost employee engagement by creating a culture of positive reinforcement. Raphael Crawford-Marks, who built and co-founded Bonusly with John Quinn, wanted the system to help reward people for doing good things, in the belief that too much of modern management is ‘stick’ rather than ‘carrot’.

However, the designers of these programmes, no matter how well-meaning, cannot protect against or prevent their misuse. Employers using this type of technology must therefore monitor its use carefully. This may result in some employers concluding that these schemes are simply not worth the risk they pose.

Marc Long is a partner in the employment and HR team at Clarke Willmott