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Is risk worth rewarding in corporate environments? 



Risky actions can be a double-edged sword in your employees. On the one hand, those who are risk-takers tend to exhibit leadership qualities that are beneficial to the company overall, producing solutions and coming up with ideas that might boost the performance of the business by a whole lot. But all of this comes in exchange for the occasional gamble that these employees take, which might end up hurting the company overall. In a way it is like going to online slots and slots sites and pulling the lever, hoping that you end up winning a whole lot of money as a result of a single action. This is why risk-takers are not always appreciated in the corporate world and many companies feel more than a little uncomfortable starting a relationship with individuals that take huge risks with the company funds or the company products. But is this the right approach? After all, we all know that risk can sometimes be extremely beneficial to the performance of the team and of the company in general. There are certain, healthy ways to encourage and reward risk, without causing the risk that the employees take resulting in damage to the company. There are several ways to do it. 

Company, not casino

Taking a risk with the company resources can be compared to gambling with somebody else’s money, and it is risky behaviour. This kind of behaviour should be discouraged and prevented altogether. One way to do so is by encouraging the risk-takers that are under your management to remember that the company resources and the company itself are not a casino. There are several ways of doing so, but being direct and harsh is never the way to go about it in the first few times you speak to them. 

One of the best ways to remind the risk-taker in the group that they are working for a company, not a casino, is by speaking to them. When you notice that they are starting to make decisions that are a little riskier, hold a meeting with them. Discuss with them the risks they are taking, try to understand why they feel these risks are warranted. When discussing, do not shoot down their ideas right away, but simply discuss these ideas and explain why they might not be in the interest of the company. The try to redirect this risk-taking behaviour into more constructive actions and work, provide them with work that might somehow encourage risk-taking, or seek other solutions. If this behaviour continues, that is when you start reprimanding them. But, if in your discussions you see that the risk is not only warranted, but also productive and helpful to the company, you might want to hold off on stopping them from the risks and encourage them to continue their actions. 

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Developing healthy risk 

Healthy risk is something that all companies could find useful. It is the type of risk that is taken on a day to day basis in order to grow the company. Risks in approaching new clients, entering new market segments or new locations. This type of risk is healthy and useful to the company and should be encouraged, but when speaking of employees, healthy risks are a little different. It involves making suggestions or providing useful opinions on subjects that they would not necessarily have been questioned about previously. It involves the employees deviating from the normal procedure in order to make things more streamlined and efficient. Encouraging this kind of risk is rewarding for the company, and should be encouraged in several ways. Direct praise is one of the most basic ways to provide such encouragement. But there are additional ways.

Financial compensation for streamlining operations, even promotions to higher positions are some of the tools in your arsenal to ensure continued positive risks in the future. Furthermore, discussing risk with your employees and giving them the freedom to try new things is one of the best ways to encourage them to find new ways to approach old problems. The encouragement of creativity is key in the encouragement of healthy risk.

Noting and preventing danger

One aspect of managing risk-taking employees is noticing risky behaviour. It might be a little hard to do so when you are caught up in all of the work involved with your position, but it is a required time investment. Risky behaviour is not too hard to notice when you are looking out for it. Usually, it is displayed at the end of the month numbers, or in the daily disposition of the employees. Sometimes, the danger will even be mentioned to you by some of the other, observant workers in the office. Noting this danger involves speaking to the person and establishing an understanding of why this might not be the optimal behaviour for the company. But, sometimes, people will not listen to you and bring the company to the brink of damage simply by behaving this way. In those cases, the best thing to do might be to speak to HR and let the person go, or at least ask them to leave for a little while. 

Sean Jacobson

I'm Sean, a former HR and business consultant providing you insights into the business world for Leader to Leader.

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