Let’s Show the Oscars how it’s Done


As much as I resist the “we are all winners” culture of back-patting that sometimes infects us, I really believe in honoring work well done. Especially now in the midst of hiring freezes and flat budgets, awards can be an effective motivator and morale-booster.

Here are some ideas and resources for bestowing recognition to deserving govies:


  • A sticky-note of thanks left in someone’s cube. I still have one that a supervisor wrote me years ago. It was unexpected and I appreciated it so much that I have kept it next to my computer even as the ink completely faded, as a little reminder that my work matters.
  • An email of praise with a cc to the person’s supervisor. Or if you are that person’s supervisor, cc your own supervisor to send the acknowledgment up the chain.
  • A short recommendation written on someone’s Linkedin profile (provided you are already connected to that person). This takes no time at all and carries the added impact of being visible to that person’s other connections. See below for a head start on write-up language.
  • For federal guidelines on non-monetary awards, including swag and time-off awards, see the Office of Personnel Management’s performance management


  • Note that there are restrictions on federal employee awards for FY2017 that apply to individual monetary awards like rating-based performance awards.
  • For a complete list of formal performance awards available to government employees, see OPM’s list of annual performance awards. This includes the prestigious Service to America Medal (the Sammies), as well as many other leadership and innovation awards. The list includes awards available to all levels of government, such as the Public Service Excellence Awards and the National Public Service Awards. The nomination cycle of these awards varies. Bookmark the link and keep track for next year if you missed an opportunity to nominate a worthy candidate or team for a particular award this time around.

Write someone up!

This is your chance to make someone shine. It’s good karma, it will make someone’s day, and can even help raise the visibility of your whole organization.

A nomination write-up should include enough specific examples that you get a sense of the nominee as a person. If you have time, it’s always good to ask around and get references from colleagues who can provide testimonial about the nominee’s strengths. People are usually happy to drop what they are doing to provide some words of support for a deserving colleague.

As a last resort, use the following template inspired by MadLibsTM to get your creative wheels turning:

­­­­­­­­­­­________’s (nominee) ­­­­­­­­______ (adjective like “visionary,” “intuitive,” “astute”, or “far-sighted”) approach as ________ (job title) at ________ (agency) has had a measurable positive impact on the pace and scale of success in achieving ______ (project goal).

I have worked with _______ (Nominee) for ___ years now, and couldn’t be luckier. Besides his/her ability to bring a _______ (adjective) attitude to work every day, _____ (Nominee) thrives on _______ (workplace ordeal) and provides ________ (helpful attribute) to the whole team.

Her/his commitment to _________ was noticeably demonstrated through his/her focus on _______ (aspect of project), which galvanized the entire team and laid a foundation for a major breakthrough.

As a ______ (nominee’s role), he/she has enriched the dialog around ­­­­­­­­______ (project goal) and has dedicated time, effort, and _______ (positive quality) to forwarding the team’s mission. She/he is a supportive and _______ (adjective) advocate for ______ (workplace goal).

With his/her capacity to build _______ (noun), his/her incredible depth of knowledge about _______ (noun), and his/her ______ (helpful attribute), ______ (Nominee) brings a distinctive set of leadership qualities to any situation. This project/team/agency has benefited tremendously from her/his expertise and skills, and as a bonus, he/she is ______ (positive adjective) to work with.

________(Nominee) puts no boundaries on ideas, and her/his _____ (adjective) perspective often leads to innovative solutions, but more importantly he/she never stops working on a challenge until success has been achieved. ______ (Nominee) can do it all.

Rachel White is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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