Receiving vs. Earning

Share this article:

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.


Jeremy Watkin
Head of Quality

Jeremy Watkin is the Head of Quality at FCR. He has more than 15 years of experience as a customer service professional.  He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.  Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership.  Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

5 Comments. Leave new

Receiving vs. Earning | Communicate Better Blog
01/12/2016 12:36 pm

[…] post was originally published on the FCR blog on January 6, 2016. Click here for the […]

10 Leadership Lessons I Learned the Hard Way
07/13/2016 9:36 am

[…] a coaching conversation to discuss what an employee earned versus what you’re giving them. I wrote about this several months ago. When your employees succeed in their roles, you as their leader should take great pride in the work […]

4 Hacks to Better Contact Center Management
12/15/2016 11:41 am

[…] wrong— giving is a very, very good thing. But in the context of performance metrics, we need to focus on what our agents have earned. The next time you’re tempted to say, “I gave you this score” instead say, “You’ve earned […]

4 Hacks to Better Contact Center Management - Customer Service Life
01/05/2017 8:00 am

[…] wrong— giving is a very, very good thing. But in the context of performance metrics, we need to focus on what our agents have earned. The next time you’re tempted to say, “I gave you this score” instead say, “You’ve earned […]

Contact Center Training and Quality – They Belong Together
12/15/2017 7:01 am

[…] Scoring isn’t coaching – A quality score, which is the result of many quality processes, doesn’t put learners in the best position to learn. For example, a negative score can cause an emotional response, putting agents in flight, fright, or freeze mode. If learning isn’t taking place in a quality coaching session, behavior doesn’t change, and this has an impact on performance. Don’t just hand agents a quality score, coach and develop them. Also, we so often hear quality coaches talk about giving agents a score. Always remember that you didn’t give anyone anything. They earned it! […]


Leave a Reply to Receiving vs. Earning | Communicate Better Blog Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>