Culture and its effect on reward & recognition

Culture Vectors by Vecteezy

In an earlier post, we explored why we need an adaptable reward and recognition system. I also pointed out that it’s not only about the generations. Today, we’ll consider one of the cultural contexts.

In Asian culture, parents expect their kids to be at least a Director when he is in his mid-30s. To them, status and title go together. Missing one, you’re considered good for nothing. However, the kid may not even want to go into management, hence the clash at home and affecting his work.

This very creative example is to address the familial/parental pressure because they have their own expectations of what reward and recognition should be for their children.

A General Manager from the Asian office wanted to attract and recruit better candidates. Somehow he got that office to be awarded by the city and province (aka state) that they’re in. The award is not just the “best place to work in the entire state”, but it is a prestigious award. I can’t describe to you what it is because no equivalent exists in the Western culture.

Interestingly, there are a number of unintended consequences:

  1. People in the office are proud of the award, and they tell their parents about it. Now their parents can brag about their kids without having the kids needing to be a director or VP. They would say something like, “Do you know that my son works in this company, which is awarded the ABC award?”
  2. People in the office work even harder to ensure they are worthy of the award.
  3. When the other offices heard about this, they decided to do a similar thing for their own local offices.
  4. A more profound effect is that the award elevated this Asia office’s achievements. When the headquarters started singing praises, it further elevated this Asia office in the eyes of the other offices around the world.

Different countries & cultures can have a reward & recognition system that is different when you look at it, but at the end, it reflects the entire company’s purpose.

I’ll leave you to explore how company culture or team culture can also apply pressure to the workers, and how to adapt the incentives to the different cultures. If you want to explore more, please join the upcoming talk that I’ll be giving on August 26, titled “Daring you to open the HR pandora’s box“.


  1. Hi Mun
    Thanks for this, very impressive. This is very true in this context but how could we adapt it or introduce it to a culture where people are more selfish and where survival of the fittest in prevalent? I believe there, we could have a very interesting/complex combination to make it relevant, right?

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