It’s been a frustrating couple of years; my husband works hard, only to have difficulty finding a full-time job. This frustration was once again brought to the front this summer, when he was passed over for a job because his union-required pay (based on his experience) was higher than the budget for the position. It’s maddening to be the best candidate for a job — and then to not get it.
I recently read an article on MarketWatch that only confirms this reality. According to the article by Quentin Fottrell, a recent study indicates that 25% of managers in North America will give bonuses even to the worst performers on their payrolls. The study also indicates that some top performers don’t get bonuses, even though they work hard and probably “deserve” them.
Between golden parachutes for CEOs that fail miserably, and the propensity to hire lesser candidates just to save a few thousand dollars a year, it’s becoming increasingly clear to those that “follow the rules” that hard work and good performance may not pay off.
Why Do Poor Performers Get Rewarded?
In the case of bonuses, says the MarketWatch article, many managers just don’t want to deal with the discomfort and effort that comes with a negative performance review. Rather than try to justify not giving a bonus, it’s often easier just to give the bonus.
Besides, who decides what constitutes “good” performance? In some professions, it’s difficult to quantify performance in a way that reflects what bonus a worker “should” receive. Trying to come up with that kind of measure can be as difficult as explaining why someone doesn’t qualify for a bonus.
What’s the Impact?
The MarketWatch article points out that rewarding poor performers can cause problems down the road. First of all, it can be bad from a business sense. By rewarding those that aren’t pulling their weight, you simply encourage more of that behavior. Why should you work harder if you’ll get a bonus anyway? It’s something of a mismanagement of resources to reward under-achievers with bonuses.
Another issue is morale. My husband is seeing this first-hand. It’s hard when you’re told, flat-out, that you’re the best candidate, but that you aren’t going to be hired. In a traditional business setting, top performers can feel unappreciated when they see their less-awesome counterparts rewarded just as well. What’s even more difficult is that the current employment climate makes it hard to simply move to a better job. Top performers can take a hit to morale just from the situation.
If the employment situation improves, though, there could be some hope for those who work hard and try to excel. My husband hopes that budgets will loosen up a bit in the next year or so, and that he can be in the running for jobs — without fear that he has to be paid too much. And top performers at firms that reward poor performance with bonuses can move on to places where their talents and hard work are acknowledged.
What do you think of performance bonuses? Do you ever feel like you’re working too hard for the rewards you’re getting?