If You Need a Hero to Get Things Done, You Have a Problem

What a train wreckSometimes American corporate culture surprises me. It goes so over the top into dysfunction, that I want to believe the HR folks are pulling a prank. But alas.

The following guidelines, from a US-based, Fortune 50, Telecommunications “Giant” (reprinted verbatim) were not released April 1.

Quarterly Bonus Nomination Guidelines

Extraordinary Hours Worked

Sustained extra work loads of an extraordinary nature – typically either some multiple (e.g., two times) of a normal work week for a week or more, or a lesser multiple (e.g., 1.5X) of a normal work week for a month or more.

Extraordinary Inconvenience

Working, even for only a short time, on an unscheduled basis and missing some specific, major personal event like a pre-scheduled vacation, graduation, wedding, or obligation to a significant other. The event needs to be documented and missing the event needs to be a true sacrifice to the employee.

Extraordinary Location

Extended work away from home or at an undesirable location for a long period of time, such as multiple weeks.

Extraordinary Conditions

Working under extreme and unusual physical conditions by necessity, where the conditions are not foreseeable. Working outside in the cold would not qualify, but doing so for a week in a “hundred year storm” might. Working in dirty conditions to do installation would not qualify, but working in a flooded location might.

Extraordinary Performance

Exceptional performance where an employee went significantly “above and beyond” and exceeded the manager’s highest expectations on a project that had significant impact to the company. (sic)

I’m not making this shit up. Verbatim. As in exactly the same words as were used originally.

Who comes up with this? Is it supposed to be motivational? What is the problem they are trying to solve?

Work 80 hrs a week for a week or more. Or 60 hrs a week for a month or more. And then, maybe, just maybe, we’ll stuff an extra bit of cheese in your pay envelope. (Rumor has it ya might get up to $5K – would that be enough to keep you from “looking”) Then again maybe you won’t be at the top of the stack. Charlie over there, she put in 100 hrs. Hey, there’s always next month’s crisis to look forward to.

If you need a hero to get things done, you have a problem. Share on X

And you over there – with a 40 hr/week work-life balance – you are a slacker. Ignore your employment agreement. Get with the program. It’s about time at your desk, baby. Not fixing a broken system.

Oh and that second option: Wow. Sorry, did we make you miss your brother’s wedding? Just make sure you document it. Bring copies of your invitation.

Missed your kid’s birthday? Your own wedding anniversary? Suck it up. That’s not much of a sacrifice. There will be another one next year. Quit your whining and get back to your pen.

Moving on to benchmark three: Does the office that rewards this type of incentivizing count as an undesirable location? This stack ranking of “he/she who suffers the most is the bestest employee of all”? If so, gosh, everyone should be getting spot awards this quarter.

To paraphrase Jeff Sutherland:

Heroic effort should be viewed as a failure of planning, not as a rewardable event. Share on X

And to bring my favorite doctor into the mix, Dr. W. Edwards Deming:

I should estimate that in my experience most troubles and most possibilities for improvement add up to the proportions something like this: 94% belongs to the system (responsibility of management), 6% special.

I know how to fix this in a heartbeat: the cash for all these bonuses should be deducted from the employee’s manager’s paycheck with matching funds from their skip level.

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