“So, you clearly understand that you are the problem?” I asked. Events became clear for Reggie. His incentive program backfired. In the short run, his company’s margins were not compromised, but long term, he created a culture cloaked in clandestine competition. His managers gamed the system to beat margin quotas.
“We hired a compensation consultant to help us structure this incentive program,” Reggie defended. “They were very professional and seemed expert in their process.”
“Tell me, Reggie, what impact did this incentive compensation have on your manager’s contract?”
Reggie moved his head an inch, “What do you mean, what contract?”
“You know, the contract. The contract that says You get paid every day to come to work and do your best. To focus your efforts where they are most effective. To give us your best effort.”
Reggie didn’t know how to respond. “Yeah, but that doesn’t seem to work around here. People don’t come to work and do their best unless you, you, you hold some of the money back and give it to them as a bonus.”
“So, what you are saying is that you don’t trust them to do their best, so you don’t give them all their money unless they show their best effort? Then you give them their, well, you call it a bonus.”
Reggie slowly nodded his head.