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Ask Dan
I started a reward system for my booth staffers, but the same people keep winning each competition. How can I spread out the rewards — or at least quiet the other staff who think I'm playing favorites?

In a study I did of similar company contests, I found that a select few typically reaped the lion's share of the awards. These repeat winners were often motivated more by the play than the prize itself, even when the effort they had to expend was disproportionate to the prize offered. Thus, they frequently crowded out others who weren't nearly as aggressive.

One effective approach is to add more kinds of awards, so that there can be multiple winners in a single show. Such awards can be given for anything you deem valuable — good ideas, superlative teamwork, or perhaps the most prospects identified in a day.

When you establish the awards, ensure the rules for winning are unambiguous, so that your staff doesn't feel the usual winners have an inside edge. The prizes that accompany each award could be small amounts of cash, for instance, or gift cards. Better yet, they could be prizes you know particular staffers might covet, such as an extra hour off work, lunch at a favorite restaurant, leftover tchotchkes for their kids, or concert tickets.

By adding more awards, making sure the rules for winning them are clear and unbiased, and offering prizes valued by the staffers feeling left out, your program will take its place in the winner's circle.

Dan Lumpkin, organizational psychologist, is the president of management-consulting company Lumpkin & Associates in Fairhope, AL. Need answers? Email your career-related questions to askdan@exhibitormagazine.com.
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