The UE Coaching Blog

The "Blue Ribbon Syndrome" And How It Affects Your Business

What is the "Blue Ribbon Syndrome?" The "Blue Ribbon Syndrome" is a term used to describe the shift away from a competitive environment into a complacent one. An environment where everyone gets a ribbon for participating, whether they won or lost. In the business world, it can be seen as a decline in innovation and productivity, as well as a rise in employee turnover rates. Companies that fall victim to the “Blue Ribbon Syndrome” often become content with their current level of success and stop working to improve their products or services.

Said in other words, when everyone’s a winner, no one’s a winner.

The "Blue Ribbon Syndrome" is not conducive to innovation and advancement and if left unchecked will have a negative impact on your business by creating a company culture where workers are not incentivized to work hard or learn new skills. The direct outcome of this results in stagnation and decreased productivity. The "Blue Ribbon Syndrome" destroys a company's competitive spirit while also fostering an attitude of entitlement and creating tension and conflict among staff.

This syndrome can also be seen in schools, where students no longer feel the need to work hard to get good grades. After all, everyone gets a "blue ribbon" just for participating. As a result, many students lose interest in school and drop out.

Competition, and the desire to achieve, is critical for long term business success.

Think about it like this: say that your company is holding a sales contest. If everyone is a winner, then no one is really trying hard to sell more product than anyone else (a ribbon for you, a ribbon for you and a ribbon for YOU!). The competitive spirit is gone, and with it, the desire to win. The same can be said for any other area of business. If employees feel that they can't be fired, then they're less likely to take risks or put in extra effort.

The "Blue Ribbon Syndrome" will also have a negative impact on employee morale.

For example, if you're a manager and you give everyone a raise, no one is really working hard because they know they're going to get the same salary no matter what. This can lead to a sense of entitlement and dissatisfaction among employees. They will feel like they're not being compensated fairly or that they're not valued by the company, resulting in your team becoming unmotivated and unproductive.

What's worse, businesses that suffer from the "Blue Ribbon Syndrome" can be difficult to turnaround, as employees become resistant to change and are content with the status quo.

To overcome this phenomenon and achieve your outcomes, business owners must implement a system where their team is held accountable for their performance and rewarded based on their results. It's impossible to achieve success in your firm if your employees aren't pushed and driven to develop. You'll be able to avoid the "Blue Ribbon Syndrome" and succeed in your business by fostering a corporate culture that encourages staff to continually improve themselves.

Challenges facilitate the development of solutions.

As a business owner you may be tempted to shower your employees with praise and incentives just for doing their jobs (all you high “I’s” out there know what I’m talking about). While this form of encouragement might help your team "persevere," it has the potential to have a negative influence on not only the productivity and effectiveness of your company, but also the morale of your staff and how customers view you. That “atta boy” attitude gets really old, really quick.

In fact, this conduct will have long-term detrimental effects on your company and brand, therefore it's critical to establish a system for your team to be held accountable for their performance before the "Blue Ribbon Syndrome" takes hold.

Here are 5 examples of how your business will suffer from the "Blue Ribbon Syndrome" and what you can do to overcome it:

1. Poor Productivity and Decision-Making: When people are rewarded just for participating it can lead to them becoming complacent and not putting out their best effort (hey… I’m going to get rewarded no matter how hard I work, so why bust my ass?). Additionally, decision-makers may be more likely to make poor judgments if they’re focused on looking impressive instead of finding the best overall solution.

2. Negative Impact on Employee Morale: When employees feel that they are not being rewarded fairly or are working hard for no reason, it can lead to a decrease in morale. This can impact not only their work ethic but also their attitude towards the company. (This one is HUGE!)

3. Damaged Reputation with Customers: If a company rewards individuals who do not deserve it, it gives off the impression that it is unskilled and untrustworthy. This can cause customers to doubt the legitimacy of the business and have a negative opinion of it… and let’s face it, people talk!

4. Lack of Risk-Taking: When people are constantly rewarded for simply participating, they may become afraid to take risks in case they do not meet expectations. This can lead to a lack of creativity and innovation, both of which are essential for a successful business. It makes no sense for a team member to stick their neck out for something when it’s unlikely they’ll be recognized or even noticed for it.

5. Decreased Motivation: When people are not appropriately recognized for their efforts, it can lead to them feeling unmotivated and discouraged. This can impact their work ethic and negatively affect the company's productivity. Think about this one next time you see someone in your organization doing something extra ordinary. Bring light to their efforts and let them know that they’re standing out (or… outstanding). You might be surprised in their response.

The "Blue Ribbon Syndrome" is a corporate disease that’s only becoming more prevalent. It's critical for business owners to understand the problem and take appropriate steps to overcome it, especially if their organization is succumbing to it. Although overcoming the "Blue Ribbon Syndrome" may not be simple, especially if it’s becoming engrained in your corporate culture, it's the critical path forward if you want your firm to succeed and continue growing.

Calling it tight.

There are multiple ways to avoid the "Blue Ribbon Syndrome". The first is to create a culture of accountability, where employees are rewarded for their achievements, not just participation. This will help to foster a competitive environment and encourage employees to do their best. Don’t beat around the bush and bs people who are doing a sub-standard job. If they’re making mistakes, let them know about those mistakes and coach and mentor them so they can step into that best version of themselves, and in turn, create more success for your organization.

Here Are Several Steps That You Can Take To Overcome The "Blue Ribbon Syndrome" In Your Business:

*Set Expectations and Standards: It's important to establish expectations and standards for employee performance, and make sure employees understand what is expected of them. This will help to prevent complacency and ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals. Stick to your guns here, all while providing the resources and the training required to help your team members grow into the best versions of themselves.

*Encourage Risk-Taking: Promote creativity and innovation by encouraging employees to take risks. This can be done by providing them with the resources and freedom they need to try new things. Inspire them to think differently (as Apple would say) and step into their creativeness.

*Reward Based on Results: Rather than rewarding employees for simply completing their tasks, reward them based on their results. This will help to motivate them to work harder and produce better results. Let them “show you the money” with their work, efforts, and accomplishments.

*Recognize Individual Achievements: Celebrate the accomplishments of individuals, rather than simply rewarding everyone who meets the minimum requirements. This will help to create a positive environment and encourage employees to do their best. The most impactful reward that you can provide your team members is NOT a monetary one – it’s public praise and recognition.

*Evaluate Employee Performance Regularly: Evaluate employee performance regularly and provide feedback. This will help employees to understand what is expected of them and identify areas in which they need to improve. Your team WANTS to know how they’re doing, so use this as an opportunity to do exactly that.

*Set Accountability Standards: It’s of the utmost importance to implement a system where employees are held accountable for their performance and rewarded based on their results. This can include setting measurable goals and objectives and providing employees with feedback on their progress. It’s your responsibility as the leader to make this a priority.

*Create a Culture of Excellence and Innovation: This can be done by establishing and enforcing high standards for quality and performance, and by promoting a sense of ownership and responsibility among employees. Adopt the belief that “it’s all my fault” – both the good and the bad, because accepting those responsibility will promote continuous improvement within the business.

It's all too easy to develop a negative corporate culture and having the "Blue Ribbon Syndrome" in your business can be a significant challenge, but it isn't impossible to overcome.

With the correct attitude and effort from you and your team, your company will triumph over this condition and flourish. Implementing these recommendations and making the required adjustments will help you move forward with an outstanding corporate culture.

Go ahead and conduct a "health checkup" on your company to see where it stands in relation to this syndrome and take the required actions to overcome it.

Don't let your business be held back by the "Blue Ribbon Syndrome".