My first job right out of school had points 1 through 9 covered. It was only when I managed to get out that I realized I was right on the edge of a burnout. After leaving I felt like a weight was lifted off of me and I could breathe again. It felt like I had been holding my breath for months.
I was lucky because on top of 1 through 9 they also massively underpaid so when someone else came along offering nearly twice as much for more interesting work (which never materialized but that's another story) it was easier to jump ship. 500-1000$ bonuses a few times a year will let you massively underpay naive people for quite a long time.
The one point that I've seen at every single job I've ever had is a combination of "Things will be better when..." and "Keep real rewards distant.". The former is almost always used as a justification for reneging on vague allusions to future bonuses, promotions, team or personal growth or whatever.
I've grown cynical enough that anything promised (though it's rarely a promise, it's usually more of a comforting insinuation) for more than a month in the future I assume will never materialize. I'm almost always right.
So how to tell the difference between legitimate delayed reward, and smoke? Trust I guess
First difference, is delayed gratification is something I choose for myself; it's not driven onto me.
Second is that when I choose delayed gratification, I choose it based on rational, observed reasons to expect the result, not a promise from someone who hasn't demonstrated trustworthiness. Trust is based on past performance. Blind trust is faith, which I leave to religions.
Third is that choosing delayed gratification is a sign of maturity when the end benefit is a bonus, not when it's someone taking the rock off your back. When the "better times ahead" means simply not having crap shoveled over you each day, it's not maturity to delay jumping out of the septic tank.
Actually, I think this kind of thing is more common now than twenty years ago. Not it didn't exist but now the techniques have become more polished.
I'm considering implementing a bonus plan... and the question is, do I make them predictable, based on measurable stuff that I share? or do I add some randomness? do I assign them based on my own shifting perceptions? (the sort of people I hire are going to be better at manipulating the set rules than manipulating my perceptions... This is not true for all employees.)
Furthermore, would it still work if I used a predictable bonus schedule that included some random input... e.g. the chance of getting the bonus is, say, some metric based on increases in revenue or profit multiplied by a random value between 0 an 1 or something?
However, if you don't meet expectations then you cause disappointment, resentment, etc. And if the employee is unhappy this can affect other employees (poor attitudes are infectious). Disappointment is tricky and will be made even worse by your proposed semi-random reward schedule .
Personally, I prefer the safer route of skipping any tit for tat scenarios (e.g. "if you do X you might get Y at some point in the future").
 With the semi-random schedule there is the additional risk that the employee completed something they thought was a big deal, but you didn't or didn't even know about it. Disappointment by not acting on something you weren't aware of.
Well, you can pretend that employment is not a tit for tat scenario... but it is. even with a flat salary, you do what I want, and I might give you a raise. You don't do what I want, and I might fire you. There is really no getting around that.
Now, the discussion here is "should we maximize or minimize those tit for tat aspects of the employee/employer relationship"
>With the semi-random schedule there is the additional risk that the employee completed something they thought was a big deal, but you didn't or didn't even know about it. Disappointment by not acting on something you weren't aware of.
This seems like a very important concern that any bonus system would have to account for in order to be successful.
One way to approach it is to tie the bonuses to company revenue, which is easily measured, and in a company this small, fairly easily moved by even one person. (now as we add more people, it might work less well, as one person might feel like they are carrying other less productive employees... but right now, it's me, the owner, and one full-time employee, so I don't think I'd have those problems.)
I think tying it to total company revenue performance (maybe with a random multiplier or on unpredictable dates? that would be the manipulative part that may or may not be insulting and bad.) would mitigate a lot of the problems you mention of feeling jilted... I mean, you can argue about how hard you worked, or about how brilliant you are, but you can't argue about how much money came in.
The problem is, when you get that "big" bonus and it's not big then you can't help but be disappointed. I recently saw a company lose about 5 key people at one time because of the disappointment caused by this. Before bonus time those people were happy with their job and even their pay. But they all got nice bonus the year before.
In my estimation, that's 5 people they lost by a non-existent problem they created themselves.
When bonuses are paid out this way, I see them more as a way to sort of vary compensation based on market health, while still guaranteeing a fixed salary. They're performance incentives inasmuch as employees are compensated based partly on performance and partly on how well the industry is doing, making compensation market-driven in a loose sort of way.
How does this work? How's this a bad thing? Do you refer to figure manipulations which I believe as CEO you should be aware of?
And then people get disillusioned and surly. Annual review is hard enough already - I'd say do that right, pay everybody as well as you can afford, and leave it at that.
This is a classic Variable Ratio (VR) schedule of reinforcement (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reinforcement#Schedules_of_rein...).
To get the highest rates of responding, you don't want to tie it to a known schedule, that would instead be some sort of fixed or variable interval schedule, which isn't anywhere near as reinforcing as a variable ratio one.
It should be possible to get multiple bonuses within a short period of time, as long as the desired metrics are being hit. That way, you'll continue to get strong behavior throughout the entire period rather than bursts of behavior as the end of the period nears (rather than the scalloping that you see on the wikipedia graphs).
Now, the first question I need to ask is "is this crossing a line" - is it too manipulative... then, if it's not, I need to come up with a bonus scheme.
I was thinking about basing the bonuses on how much revenue has grown past our previous high. (with the number of employees, one guy can really make a big difference, and if we are operating properly, we grow by around 10-15% a month.)
hm. It seems I could pay out on random days on a month that beats the previous months receipts? I think I'd want it to be a 'peak month' rather than a 'peak day' to discourage gaming, I mean, I see how you could queue up customers for a few days... doing this over months could be bad, especially if when the months begin changes randomly.
But yeah, a formula that people can know, with, perhaps, random numbers that aren't known until the period end sounds like the way to go. I think people would mind the manipulation less if it was clear what I was doing and why.
Yeah, I don't want dishonest employees... but I also don't want my honest employees to feel like they could do better by being dishonest. even if they are honest people who will continue to be honest, it breeds discontent.
From related article: http://www.fugitivus.net/2010/06/10/on-interpersonal-badness...
That term is the biggest double-speak of this decade - "Social Gaming" operates on OCD/addictive personality snaring, pyramid schemes and plain greed.
My last YC app was to try to reinvent this paradigm. Not convincing enought I guess.
"Universities are famous for it: small departments filled with people who are expected to spend their entire lives there, with tiny, tiny rewards at stake, a system of recognition that relies on self-promotion, and no chance that any obviously pathological co-worker is going to be shuffled out the door within the next decade. The pressure and pathology can be hideous, and that gets passed on to the students. I can see how the same setup could happen in any school with low staff turnover."
Everything fits perfectly. I always wonder if I'm employing my time properly in academia. But they keep me too busy to think about it deeper. Research also keeps anyone tired, too much time dealing with the same problem, lacking some fresh air once in a while to breathe. We are emotionally involved with the work, loyalty and devotion and so on. Intermittent rewards when some of your articles are accepted... And the real awards are distant, the Ph.D. itself.
I wonder how many people are filing this under "useful but morally grey", versus "i need to quit my job and fill out a YC app"?
This sounds like many startups, too.
It sounds much more like startups to me than cubes. The emotional attachment, the promotion of the lack of work/life boundaries, the deadlines or the company dies and the world implodes, all features of startups, not really cubes.
(They have their own massive set of dysfunctional features.)
Work hard to pay off the house (or to save to buy a house), an economical crisis that doesn't seem to end no matter the company profits. Etc...
Sometimes the government will give you the perfect carrot-stick combo - the green card! For the longest time I never understood why american citizens would actually put up with the stuff I see going on in the office month to month.
Also, even these systems are gameable because there is so much randomness that with a little skill, you can get away with doing hardly any work and focussing on your own priorities. Of course you have to trade in the possibility of promotion etc but you'll get the occasional semi-big reward thats doled out to everyone :) ...
Also, if you find yourself a victim of this type of relationship, usually there is something that you need to fix about yourself. Seek good professional help. Otherwise you risk "escaping" into an identical situation. A healthy person would probably run at the first signs.
Can't one detect such behaviour very fast and get out of the rollercoaster before any damage is done?
I'm sure if you just push yourself a little harder you can get past this current crisis and everything will be ok.
That's what kept employees, husbands and wives together in the US fifty years ago or I'd imagine in Japan twenty years. It's not just that the situation asks you to stay but that everything outside the immediate situation also asks you to stay.
But I'd agree this is what will work in a climate of overwhelming atomization and choice. Makes you really think...
Especially because the link is the :visited colour, and you have to go there just to confirm that what you'd read before remains the same :)
He was the Joel Spolsky of the Middle Ages, I'm telling you.
But yes, point taken. :)
Ignoring the accuracy of a tale told more than five hundred years after the event, if Arthur was real and such an important figure, why did the Venerable Bede fail to mention Arthur at all during his remarkable (for the 'dark ages') history of Britain in the ninth century? /nitpick
To the extent that Arthur could have been real, he likely would have been a warrior-leader, rather than a king, fighting against the spreading Anglo-Saxon invaders.
edit: I suppose the relationship version of my example is those who are afraid to trust others and have happy relationships because they are focused on the dark and scary things that have happened to them in the past by those who have taken this post's advice and other similarly poor advice, or bad things that they've heard have happened to others, etc. Reminds me of something attributed to Shakespeare, “A coward dies a thousand deaths, a hero only one.” It's almost always better to look at the bright side, because you will probably end up having a few great relationships, than to look at the negative, and definitely have none. Easier said than done....
While it is written as a how-to-abuse type guide, the tone clearly shows it to be a how-to-avoid-abuse-and-recognize-it guide.
It's more like if you're already a loser, you can use some of that to your advantage by dragging someone else down with you.
It's really the same effect in both cases, they always threaten to fire you / leave and when you say OK, they beg you to stay. The crazy part is how effective it really is. I think the article really best describes sociopathic behavior. At least it only really takes about a year to recover from it all.
This hits terribly close to home in my recent (though now past) life.
Glad to be (largely) free of that though, these days.
Is spooky right-on, for 4 years of my work I had a co worker who was a psychopath/sociopath the entire time and I hadn't realized, he fit EVERY one of these items. Read these items, print it out and tape it on your wall.
lawyers were involved, turns out the sociopath was being manipulated by an even greater sociopath. These people are the people you find blackmailing you to derail your career permanently for financial gain.