How do you like to receive professional feedback? A discreet one-to-one with your line manager? An office-wide email from your boss full of champagne emoji celebrating your success? A pay rise or financial bonus is always welcome, obviously. Now, there's a new workplace feedback system on the rise, and it's proving controversial to say the least.
"Peer-to-peer micro bonuses" – that is, tipping your colleagues for doing a good job – is becoming increasingly common at UK companies, the BBC reports. Typically, the money doesn't come out of employees' own back pockets (thankfully!), but from a dedicated company budget given to all employees.
Two providers of the schemes – the US-based Bonusly and Reward Gateway – told BBC Radio 5 Live they've seen a boom in uptake from UK customers in the last year (by 75% and 100% respectively). That means more than 10,000 employees at 250 companies are now encouraging staff to give each other small cash rewards based on their performance at work. The idea behind the scheme is to urge employees to "form good habits about giving recognition to each other," said Raphael Crawford-Marks, cofounder of Bonusly.
We normally tip around £2, but if someone does something really good, then they might get a fiver.
"We normally tip around £2, but if someone does something really good, then they might get a fiver. It's a really tangible way of saying, 'You know what, I really liked that,'" Becky Thornton, whose company introduced peer-to-peer tipping, told the BBC. "It feels like a positive way to show you appreciate someone's work. I save up my tips and withdraw them when I've got over £100, then I treat myself," she added.
It's easy to imagine how buoyed you'd feel to know your colleagues were impressed with your output; who doesn't appreciate a pat on the back? On the other side of the coin, though, are the potential problems workplace "tipping" throws up: added stress, competitiveness (some firms reportedly have charts revealing how much everyone has been tipped), and the worry that colleagues are only being nice to you for financial gain.
It would fuel negativity, jealousy and unnecessary competitiveness in a world that's already very dog-eat-dog.
Martha Nahar, 24, an internal communications officer, believes micro-tipping has no place at work and that it could very quickly become a popularity contest. "It should be left as something that happens in a restaurant. I'd find it far more rewarding to receive a thank you from my manager and colleagues, or to receive praise through emails, one-on-ones or meetings," she told Refinery29. "Everyone is doing fantastic work in their day jobs and if I found out that other colleagues were getting 'tipped' because they did something great, it would make me feel as if I’m not good enough."
The potential consequences for workplace culture could also be toxic, Nahar added. "Peer-to-peer tipping would fuel negativity, jealousy and unnecessary competitiveness in a world that's already very dog-eat-dog. I think any kind of financial incentives should be given to teams, and not specifically to individuals. I would also question whether my work deserves a £2 tip or a fiver… surely I’m worth more than that?"
It could be a great little ego boost and a bit of fun.
Workplaces are already blighted by presenteeism – that is, employees feeling pressured to stay at work for longer than necessary for professional brownie points – and peer-to-peer bonuses could arguably fuel this unproductive trend, or encourage workers to take on overtime for relatively little financial reward. "I think I'd put more pressure on myself to do more work in order to be tipped," Nahar adds. "While some might see it as an incentive to work harder, others might start to feel more pressured or under scrutiny. It would create more anxiety about who has or hasn’t got tipped... I'd certainly be a bit more on edge."
However, given the current economic climate – wages in the UK are rising but very slowly – many would appreciate any opportunity to make extra cash, regardless of the potential for social awkwardness or anxiety.
"I love anything positive, so this feels like a good move. Who wouldn't love more money, too?" says 34-year-old TV producer Gina Lyons. "If it was a practice my team seemed comfortable with, I think it could be a great little ego boost and a bit of fun. I'd likely kiss ass more if I knew I could get a tip!"