Recognition and Reward

Frequently Asked Questions


What are the underlying principles for the Tradition of Excellence and Spot Bonus Awards programs?

Lehigh's senior administration, department heads, and staff members asked for a more robust staff recognition program that would build on the annual University award programs yet provide a continuum of opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate staff contributions. The two programs that were introduced in the spring of 2003 support the following underlying principles:

  • Publicly recognize individuals and/or teams for their exceptional contributions to their office, their department, their college or stem, the University as a whole, or to the surrounding community.
  • Celebrate that each individual can and does make a difference
  • Highlight behaviors that support Lehigh University's values and goals and showcase employees as role models
  • Foster an environment of shared success and commitment
  • Provide a fair and flexible staff recognition system that is woven into the fabric of Lehigh University


How do I decide if an individual or team is worthy of my nomination?

First consider the criteria for the two programs.

The Tradition of Excellence criteria recognizes character, job performance, and team focused contribution:


  • Create a positive, supportive, and inclusive place for employees and students to work and learn
  • Demonstrate exemplary leadership and role modeling by providing a sense of purpose, vision, and mission to achieve goals
  • Invest time and interest in coaching and mentoring to influence others positively and to build consensus around organizational values and objectives
  • Actively participate in Lehigh community service

Job Performance

  • Provide quality customer service, both in front and behind the scenes. "Go the extra mile" to provide service to internal and external customers with timely and appropriate follow-up, responsiveness, and demonstrated improvement of customer service and satisfaction
  • Get results by identifying, creating, and implementing innovative solutions to improve the way work is done - i.e., making it easier, more efficient, and/or less costly
  • Contribute to the success of others by sharing expertise and knowledge

Team Focused Contribution

  • Serve on a department or University team or committee and contribute to its success
  • Work on a special project with successful outcomes
  • Participate in broad efforts outside the realm of assigned job duties to improve the University community

Spot Bonus nominees must demonstrate an extraordinary achievement tied to a major stem or University goal. Only supervisors, with the endorsement of their department and stem leader may nominate individuals or teams for a Spot Bonus. To be eligible, nominees should meet three criteria:

    1. Perform substantially beyond expectations on a specific assignment, task, or goal
    1. Make contributions that have a significant impact on department or University objectives
    1. Produce extrordinary results above and beyond the normal responsibilities of the person's position

To qualify for either award, the individual or team must exhibit performance and produce results that go significantly beyond what would be considered strong job performance. Do not nominate someone for "working extra hours" for Lehigh. The two programs are intended for recognition of exceptional achievement, not to compensate people for "time worked."


What is the difference between the Tradition of Excellence and the Spot Bonus programs? I get them confused.

One major distinction is the source of the nomination - i.e., the person who is submitting the nomination. Staff, faculty, students, alumni, parents, vendors--indeed anyone--may submit Tradition of Excellence nominations for full and part-time staff (nonexempt, exempt, and research staff; excluding student and wage employees). On the other hand, Spot Bonus nominations come from supervisors with the endorsement of the department head, dean, or vice president.

Another major difference is the timing of the award distribution. Tradition of Excellence awards are awarded twice a year (in the fall and spring semesters) while Spot Bonuses are awarded on a rolling basis.


I am a supervisor and get baffled as to whether I should nominate my staff for a Tradition of Excellence or Spot Bonus award. How do I decide?

Supervisors should consider the impact of the contribution, the amount of sustained effort required, and the degree to which the individual or team exceeded the expectations for the task or activity. The highest level contributions should be directed to the Spot Bonus Committee. Significant contributions above and beyond job expectations but not at the uppermost order of magnitude would be appropriate for a Tradition of Excellence nomination. When in doubt, supervisors should consult Associate Vice President for Human Resources, Jackie Matthews, for assistance in determining which aware is appropriate.


When can Tradition of Excellence and Spot Bonus award nominations be made and how frequently are they given out?

Nominations for both awards may be made any time of the year. In fact, it is best to mnominate an individual or team at the point that the outstanding contribution is made while the impact is fresh in your mind. Nomination forms may be found on this website at forms.Tradition of Excellence awards are announced twice a year, in April/May and November/December. Spot Bonus awards are distributed on a rolling basis throughout the year.

There are many Tradition of Excellence award nominations received and given. The Tradition of Excellence Committee reviews nominations in two cycles to coincide with the fall and spring semesters. With fewer nominations to consider, the Spot Bonus Committee reviews nominations as they come in, generally waiting until two to five nominations have accumulated. Spot Bonus awards are distributed once the committee has made its decision.


I nominated a very deserving person for a Tradition of Excellence award and was disappointed when the committee informed me that this person did not receive the award. What more should I have done?

The Tradition of Excellence Committee is made up of a representative group of staff members. The committee reviews each nomination very carefully. The purpose of the Tradition of Excellence program is to identify those individuals and teams who are not just simply doing a very good job but are those "ordinary people doing extraordinary things." So it is important to clearly convey how the individual or team went above and beyond job expectations. The committee is careful not to be overly influenced by the strength of the written nomination prose and focuses more on the actual contribution(s) of the nominee(s). In fact, if the nominator is concerned about his/her ability to do justice to the nominee in writing, there is a check-off box on the nomination form to have a committee member contact the nominator for additional information.


I know of very deserving colleagues who deserve recognition but are not getting it. Why aren't they receiving a Tradition of Excellence or Spot Bonus award?

If you know of award-worthy individuals or teams, nominate them! in our fast-paced working environment, it is often hard to make time to write a nomination. However, the time spent is well worth the effort when you see the appreciative smiles that come when deserving individuals and teams receive the accolade of an award. Furthermore, by nominating others you are directly participating in and contributing to Lehigh's culture of accountability and recognition. Remember too, that in addition to these formal recognition programs, a simple thank you or statement of praise--such as a quick e-mail, written note, or mention at a staff gathering--can be very inclusive, flexible, and powerful.


If you have additional questions regarding the Spot Bonus and/or Tradition of Excellence programs, please submit them to

©2007 Human Resources, Lehigh University, 428 Brodhead Ave., Bethlehem, PA 18015
Tel (610) 758-3900 Fax (610) 758-6226