Tag Archives: discretionary performance

What Do We Pay For?

Question from the Ask Tom mailbag:


How do you incorporate discretionary responsibilities into the job description?


This discussion hinges on the difference between prescribed duties and discretionary duties.

Prescribed duties are easy. Those are the ones you are told explicitly to do.

But do we pay an executive, who writes a letter, for the mechanics of pushing a pen to make ink flow onto a piece of paper, or pressing keys to make letters appear on a screen? Or do we pay an executive for the discretionary thinking that goes into the message of the letter?

Do we pay a machine operator for the prescribed duties of moving a piece of metal into position and pressing a button to cut the metal? If that were the case, we would simply purchase robotics. Or rather, do we pay the machinist for the discretion of how raw materials are organized to enter the work area, the cleanliness of the scrap produced by the machine, the attention paid to the preventive maintenance to keep the machine operating?

Indeed, effectiveness in a position may have more to do with discretionary performance than prescribed performance.

So, how do we build discretionary performance into the expectations of the job? Can it be done through the job description document? Comments?