Receiving vs. Earning


This post was originally published on the FCR blog on January 6, 2016. Click here for the original.

My customer service career started more or less by accident many moons ago. I was fresh out of college and absolutely clueless about what I wanted to do with my life. I took a job in customer service while I “figured things out,” found that the work suited me, and here I am today.

After a few years on the front lines, I was offered a role managing a small customer service team and gratefully accepted. It was at that point that I really wished I had listened more and slept less in my management classes in college.

One process that was particularly challenging was the performance review. Nevermind the fact that I was nervous about managing people who were previously my peers. I felt like a total failure when trying to deliver reviews.

I went and spoke with a mentor about my frustration and uttered something like “…and I gave them this score on their review and they reacted this way.” He quickly stopped me and asked,

“Did you give them the score or did they earn the score?”

You know that moment when a light comes on? Insert that here.


I want to take just a few moments to compare receiving and earning. When we receive something, it is given to us by someone else. It’s not something we necessarily earned or deserved and therefore, we have little or no control over what it is or how much it is. Certainly in the right context, receiving a gift is welcomed and appreciated and the giver is fulfilled in giving the gift.

In the context of a performance review however, giving someone a certain set of scores whether good or bad, places the responsibility on the giver. It insinuates that the receiver has no control over their performance.


To earn something is to work for it and be compensated accordingly for the level and quality of work that was completed. Unlike giving, the earner of the compensation has significantly more power and responsibility over the reward or compensation they receive. In the case of a performance review, it becomes a review of what they earned based on their work rather than what someone else gave them.

There’s undoubtedly a variety of opinions out there around performance reviews and their effectiveness. It’s absolutely critical to make sure that what your employees are producing aligns with the company vision and mission and that they are compensated for their contributions toward those goals. That’s largely a topic for another post.

In the meantime, if you are in a leadership position where you are reviewing the work of those you lead, stop giving them scores. You can surrender much of that responsibility that you’re likely carrying around. Instead focus on what they are earning and how you can equip and motivate them to earn more and help us achieve our ultimate goal together.


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One comment

  • I remember this all too well–it’s not easy! But, you put it into perspective clearly with “earning” vs “giving”. Thanks Jeremy!

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