Google's Peer Bonus System

A Look at Google’s Peer-To-Peer Bonus System

By John Quinn

Google is associated with innovation in every aspect of its business and its management techniques are no exception.

Google employs multiple award systems to motivate employees and perhaps the most notable is its peer-to-peer recognition program. This program allows Google employees to proactively recognize their peers for doing something big or small that goes above and beyond the call of duty. Peers often reward an activity that would have gone completely unnoticed by managers.

Google peer bonuses typically aren’t large but in the words of one employee: “it’s a great privilege to receive one.”

A typical example of a peer bonus would be one employee giving $175 to a peer who “coded an SQL query for me and saved me a lot of time.”

The system isn’t without critics. Piaw Nai, in his presentation "5 Google Engineering Management Mistakes," claims that “[p]eer bonus structure was very well done, but not widely used inside engineering.” He goes on to suggest that the sums involved might be considered “insulting."

Eduardo Pinheiro, a researcher at Google, counters: “I just checked my team’s status […] The person who got the most peer bonuses had eight in a little less than two years. The second one had five during the same time.”

The peer bonus system catalyzes a variety of reward behavior at Google, from bribes from non-technical employees for after-hours coding projects to QA rewarding developers who contribute the best automated testing for their software.

Want to bring the benefits of peer-to-peer recognition and peer bonuses to your organization? Check out our in-depth peer recognition guide:

Getting the Most from Peer Recognition


Written by John Quinn

John Quinn

John is a Co-Founder of Bonusly, where he lends his broad experience in all aspects of developing and running large scale, world class, high availability web infrastructures. He's dedicated to providing delightful product experiences, and making work better for everyone.

Originally published on December 31, 2013 → Last updated February 15, 2018