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Why bonuses are NOT the way to make work fun

I have long pondered the question: How can you make work more fun.

I, like I suspect most people, always assumed work just wasn't going to be as much fun as my recreation.

Now that I run my own company I can't just pawn the problem off on my employer saying "well, they make it not fun".

Now that I have full control, it behoves me to answer the question.

The following blog argues that conventional means of reward are NOT the best way to get workers to perform. Instead, it's more effective to remove the obstacles to work being fun. I.e., "lubricate" thier work environment.

Mr. Analogy
Friday, May 14, 2004

You might find it worth looking up a guy called "Frederick Herzburg". 

According to his theory motivation is controlled by motivating factors (which motivate you to work harder / better) and hygiene factors (which if you get wrong de-motivate you).  Money is a hygiene factor but you'll find a whole list.

My personal preference is to try to structure your workload so they can go home having achieved something. 

a cynic writes...
Friday, May 14, 2004

Meaningfully contributing to something that people
care about while making a decent amount of money
and benifits is all you really need.

If you can foster an evironment
where people can make a difference and work together
without being crapped on all the time then that is
really fun.

The other kinds of fun stuff is a waste of time.

son of parnas
Friday, May 14, 2004

F. Herzberg is one of the references given by Steve McConnell in chapter 11 (Motivation), in Rapid Development. This chapter could be worth reading, in this case.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Speaking from an employee point of view I have to agree with the article that you link to.  Where I work I feel I get a very good salary, we get multiple yearly bonuses based on meeting specific milestones and we get stock options.  My feeling is (and I haven't tested this out recently so I don't know for sure) that I would have a hard time finding some one to hire me for my current salary, not to mention the value of un-vested options.

Having said all that I am extremely unmotivated.  I have been at this company for over 5 years and over the last 2-3 years my motivation has been declining almost exponentially.  The main reasons for my lack of motivation are, lack of structure, not being appriciated for extra effort (like OT/weekends, working under extreme pressure and actually meeting customer demands), and I think the biggest  thing is probably lack of respect.  Management makes technical decisions in a vacuum and then asks developers to implement it (this relates to the 'choice' thing that the blog you liked to talks about).  Also, there is the demotion/lay-off fear here and there is a god complex going  on at the VP level...

So how to combat that?  What would I need to have happen to make things better?  First thing I would need is a change of stance from management.  I feel they need to concentrate on actually managing and staying away from technical decisions.  Now in a small shop this might not be possible (and there may not even be that sort of a problem).  The next thing is that I would need to be given clear and well defined ownership of *something*.  There are constantly all sorts of bullshit political battles going on at both the mangement and developer level here.  I have a slightly laid back style and I am not as agressive as some other people.  So if I am not given clear ownership of something some one more agressive will come along and try to take over it (mostly in an effort to look better for their performance review).  Finally I would need feedback more than once a year.  Management actually meets with each other at least 4 times a year to 'rank' developers but never meet with developers before or after these meetings to talk about how a developer could work to improve their ranking.  Of course, the whole ranking thing is total bull as well.  In short, I would be looking for clear direction from mangement and a lack of the CYA mentality (always ready to point the finger when something doesn't go quite right).

Friday, May 14, 2004

I presume that what the other poster referred to as "hygiene" factors, are what are commonly known as maintenance factors.

These are the factors that stop people being demotivated, but don't motivate them because they expect them. Mind you, in many evironments that might be enough to make a huge difference.

Stephen Jones
Friday, May 14, 2004

It's interesting.. we have a bunch of people doing tech support.

We used to just say "work hard for 8 hours and you're done". Then we made a "quota" system where you can leave if you've done X questions, or worked for 8 hours.

It's crazy, the quota is set at about twice what they used to do in a day, and people leave every day after about 5 hours. And they love it, and the work is just as good as before, if not better!

So in a way, the carrot worked.. but it wasn't monetary, and it wasn't negative at all, and the workers have full control over how they get the work done.

Friday, May 14, 2004

"people leave every day after about 5 hours"

Gee... what happens if everyone leaves by 3pm and a customer calls for tech support? <g>

Seriously, it sounds like a fine way to do things. You've just changed from working HOURS to working TASKS.  That is actually consistent with the article.  HOURS are a bit arbitrary. Working X hours doesn't help the company. Solving  Y problems DOES help the company.

And the tech support person KNOWS it.

So, they're probably more satisfied knowing they've helped twice as many people in 5/8 the time!

Mr. Analogy
Friday, May 14, 2004

Ah yeah.. it's all email support! It'd be a lot harder to do phone support twice as fast without sacrificing quality I bet.

And the shifts are staggered so there's still pretty good coverage.. just much shorter response times!

Yeah, I just thought about "if I were in tech support, what would would be awesome for me?" And I thought, if I could just leave after doing a certain amount of work no matter what time it was. Fortunately it's a quantifiable enough task that it's really easy to measure when the work's been done!

Friday, May 14, 2004

Stephen - that's a fair summary.  I hadn't sent it described as a "maintenance" factor but either way.

The important point if your staff are paid what they consider a fair wage, paying them any extra (a  bonus maybe) won't motivate them a great deal.  However if they are paid less than what they consider a fair wage they will be demotivated.  On the other hand, give them decent goals and a sense of achievement they'll work their little backsides off.

The appalling thing is this stuff is taught at business school (I got it from an OU course)  but how often is it applied?

Btw I think I made a cock up in spelling - I've seen it spelt Herzberg (..berg not ..burg).   

a cynic writes...
Friday, May 14, 2004

I know it because we teach it in our prep year English course at tech college. Presumably people who go to Management school know all about it, but not about making a successful business, and the people that can set up a successful business don't go to managment school.

Stephen Jones
Friday, May 14, 2004

In the various courses I took that referenced Herzberg, they were always referred to as hygiene factors and not maintenance factors.  I've never heard of the "commonly known" term referenced.

Turns out, if you do a search for "hygiene factors" in Google, Herzberg crops up everywhere (not the same for "maintenance factors" because the combination is more likely for non-Herzberg related topics).  However, if you add the word Herzberg to the maintenance search, additional on topic pages referring to hygiene factors first (but maintenance as an acceptable alternate in brackets) are returned.

For the business sociology geeks among us :)

Friday, May 14, 2004

Sounds excellent...but the cynical (or realist?) side of me wonders: What sort of review is done to make sure that they're not just cranking out quick but inadequate answers to questions so they can get out the door more quickly?

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Good point. My first rule of metrics is "you will get what you measure".  If you're measuring emails sent per day, you're going to get a lot of short emails.  Measuring customers delighted per day is a lot harder, but if that's what you're after, you'd better be measuring that.

If you ever get the chance to see Mike Daisey's one-man play "Twenty-One In Dog Years", about his time at Amazon, see it.  In it he reveals that as a tech support person, he was graded on how many calls he could get through in a day and how quickly he could get customers off the phone.  He did great, because he'd hang up on customers after a couple minutes in mid-sentence.  Very funny.

Eric Lippert
Saturday, May 15, 2004

Dear Eric,
                You want to read some of the books written on managing call centres, including a couple by a company not a hundred miles from Redmond. They specifically recommend this metric, and other beauties such as sacking those that do not measure up to it and rationing toilet breaks.

              I suspect that in the case given they were dragging their heels before, but now you would find that the odd difficult case is much more likely to be misdiagnosed. Not sure if it is that important.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, May 15, 2004

Just to second Eric's recommendation, I also recommend "21 Dog Years", but I got it book form, a greatly entertaining read.

Greg Hurlman
Saturday, May 15, 2004

It is also common for bigCorps to outsource their call centers to vendors (who could be in or outside the US) who charge based on the number of calls received.  Of course, that arrangement gives lots of incentives to NOT solve customers' problems, because it's more profitable for the vendor if they call back again and again!

T. Norman
Saturday, May 15, 2004

Sometimes  the vendor makes nothing on the product and gets back the investement on premium rate calls to the help desk. And no, they don't encourage the staff to talk more. Just keep you on hold.

A couple of years back they were talking about leveraging call center work. You phoned about a problem with one product and they used it to try and sell you a couple more. There was no suggestion that the help desk should try and fix your current problem first.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, May 15, 2004

Mr. Analogy,

Humans have two fundamental and somewhat contradictory ego requirements.

- The Need to feel special, unique, loved, individual, that they are making a different, recgonised etc

- The Need to feel part of a team, a process, part of something larger than themselves, unified with others, partisan etc

To make things more fun you need to improve either the team identity or the personal empowerment.

Monday, May 17, 2004

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