Is It Time to Trash That Trophy?

A friend called to tell me about an interview for a possible new job. It was one of those almost all-day kinds with multiple people, panels and tests in one swoop. During one of the breaks, she was waiting in the hallway. In the the hallway was a trophy case. Inside the case were trophies. And they were kinda old. The most recent one was from 2008 but the rest were dated 2003 or older …

“Is that a bad sign? Do you think something is wrong with the place?” she asked.

Yes and no

There is nothing bad about being proud of your accomplishments as an individual or as an organization. Winning awards for your work is awesome! Individuals and organizations should display this proudly for all to see — in the office and on websites and resumes and other professional profiles.

However, there comes a point when you have to seriously consider trashing the trophy:

  • It’s old. Being top-seller of the the 3rd quarter in 2002 is nice. And it is nice that your franchise saw the highest increase in new customers over prior year in 2005. However, there have been approximately 38 quarters since then where you weren’t on top — or if you were, you didn’t get a plaque for it. And the plant didn’t surpass production in the 7 years after — or if it did, no award was given.
  • It’s irrelevant. Winning the Customer Service Rep of the Year for 2006 is fantastic! However, you aren’t in Customer Service anymore — you transferred and have worked in Accounting since 2007. Or your plant won an Engineering Award in 2008 — but that part of the business was sold off in 2009 and engineering is no longer apart of your business operation.

Keeping stuff like this on display makes it seem like you either 1) aren’t still succeeding and/or 2) you’re stuck in the past.

And, hopefully, neither of these are true. The truth may be that budgetary reasons made the company decide to stop giving out actual trophies for exceeding expectations. Or instead of plaques, the company switched to giving winners gift cards. Or the company faced new competition in the market that cause it to struggle for a moment. Or the organization changed focus and awards weren’t given for the new areas yet … The old, irrelevant trophies can’t explain this to the unknowing onlooker though. So it may be time to make some changes to that particular display.

But if your awards demonstrate either of the following, I say keep the trophies on placed prominantly for a really long time:

  • Dominance. Winning Employee of the Month 17 times in the last 18 months or winning Safety Honors every year for the last decade as a high-volume manufacturing facility is badass. It shows consistent committment to excellence.
  • Significance. If you were awarded for 15 years of Service to your company or the organization was the Franchise of the Decade recipient, that really means something. The importance of once in a lifetime awards like these never really diminish.

Accomplishments like these should be showcased to sparkle and shine for all to see!

Ultimately, organizations and individuals have to understand and accept that we cannot rest or rely solely on our past accomplishments to predict or propel our future success. We should celebrate our victories and display our awards for a reasonable amount of time — but keep pushing forward toward new and different goals.

When our awards and accomplishments go from a display to demonstrate our dedication … to just being decoration, it is probably time to trash the trophy.

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  1. I had to comment on the actual blog that I hate seeing dusty trophy cases!! Yawn. Facebook was not enough. 🙂

    • Buzz Rooney

      June 18, 2012 at 10:14 PM

      Ha! Thanks, Lynn. Old, dusty trophies are not cool. If companies don’t want to get rid of them, they should definitely upgrade the display.

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