Work-related stress – low recognition and reward

This guidance can help employers understand how recognising and rewarding employee performance may help control risks of work-related stress.


Psychosocial hazards

Psychosocial hazards are factors in the design or management of work that increase the risk of work-related stress and can lead to psychological or physical harm. Examples of psychosocial hazards might include poor supervisor support or high job demands.

Employees are likely to be exposed to a combination of psychosocial hazards. Some hazards might always be present at work, while others only occasionally. There is a greater risk of work-related stress when psychosocial hazards combine and act together, so employers should not consider hazards in isolation.

Psychosocial hazards do not necessarily reveal the causes of work-related stress. Causes are likely to be specific to the employee, work or workplace. Senior management should identify which psychosocial hazards negatively affect employees' health and well-being and take appropriate action to control the impact of those hazards.

Understanding recognition and reward

Acknowledging, rewarding and recognising employees for their contributions, achievements and efforts are essential for creating a positive work environment.

When an appropriate level of recognition and reward is present in an organisation:

  • supervisors provide encouragement, positive comments and other gestures of appreciation
  • employees feel appreciated and are more positive about themselves, their abilities and skills, and are more likely to contribute further to the organisation's results
  • recognition of good performance and milestones reached are visible
  • there are regular celebrations or acknowledgement of shared accomplishments
  • employees are paid fairly for their work
  • where relevant, promotions or other skill development opportunities are based on recognition of capability, effort and achievements
  • the organisation appreciates employees' commitment and passion for their work

Lack of recognition and reward as a hazard

Some of the situations that may lead to poor demonstrations of recognition and reward include:

  • lack of feedback or inadequate feedback about performance
  • lack of positive feedback
  • imbalance of employees' efforts with formal and informal recognition and rewards
  • lack of opportunity for skills development
  • employees' skills and experience are under-used
  • unfair employee award processes that do not match employee contributions to the organisation
  • underpayment or non-payment of extra hours or overtime

Providing positive feedback

Risk control actions to help ensure employees feel appropriately rewarded and recognised include:

  • providing regular feedback on performance
  • training supervisors to provide feedback positively and constructively
  • framing negative feedback as an improvement opportunity, setting realistic improvement goals and recognising positive changes as they occur
  • praising employees whenever they have done tasks well, being specific about what was done well so it can be repeated
  • listening to employees' needs, concerns and ideas and acknowledge them as a meaningful form of recognition
  • recognising and rewarding employees for their creativity, ingenuity and effort, not just for their contribution or productivity
  • formally or informally congratulating employees on a job well done by celebrating successes through –
    • events such as team lunches or morning teas
    • recognising individuals in team meetings
    • conducting staff awards programs
    • writing an article in an internal publication
    • advising managers further up the chain if someone performs well
  • promptly recognising and celebrating successes
  • ensuring recognition and rewards are appropriate and relevant for the employee or team

Relevant and tangible rewards

  • Ensure recognition and rewards are appropriate and relevant for the employee or team.
  • Use rewards to acknowledge good performance.
  • Consider rewards as an expression of appreciation and a way of recognising individual or group contribution to a job responsibility, task or an organisational goal.
  • Define the purpose of a reward, for example, to recognise the value of the employee's contribution, and take it into account when considering and planning the reward and its value.
  • Ensure any financial reward system is fair and equitable for all employees and that rewards do not require unrealistic efforts.

Opportunities for development

  • Provide opportunities for career development such as acting in higher-level roles during a superior's absence or developing specialist skills.
  • Offer access to various in-house or external training programs beyond those necessary for employees' roles.
  • Support participation in personal and professional development.
  • Consider rotating jobs or using coaching and mentoring to enrich employees' lives, skills and motivation.

Work-related stress and your legal duties

The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) requires employers to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable. This responsibility includes providing and maintaining safe systems of work and an obligation to consult with employees and HSRs on matters that directly affect or are likely to affect their health or safety, including hazards and risks associated with work-related stress.

Employees also have duties under the OHS Act to take reasonable care for their own health and safety, the health and safety of people in the workplace and to co-operate with their employer.

More about your legal obligations

Related pages

This information is from 'Preventing and managing work-related stress: A guide for employers'. The complete guide is available in two formats.

Website version PDF guide