I’ve been speaking to quite a few leaders recently who are heavily invested in revamping their bonus structures.
“Mary”, they say, “I need to get my managers focused on this one thing… blah, blah, blah.”
Well, here’s the truth. You’re wasting your time. If you want someone to behave a certain way, bonuses won’t work. They have never worked.
That’s because bonuses are about acknowledgement, not entitlement.
If you are one of those leaders who is hopelessly trying to tie behaviour to bonus, stop. Here’s where you are going wrong.
- Money doesn’t change stubborn people. No matter what bonus structure you put in place, the only thing that will change a stubborn person’s behaviour is lengthy and assertive conversations about what you want them to be focused on. Otherwise, they will stubbornly try to get the results you want by more stubbornly sticking to their sucky behaviour. Their only goal in life will be to prove you wrong.
A year later, where does that leave you? It leaves you with lousy results and no bonus to pay out. That seems like a long time to wait to get the behaviours you want.
- Behaviours are driven by beliefs. If you want someone to change their behaviour, first go after their beliefs.
People can believe in any number of things. They can believe that certain activities drive certain results. They can believe that getting a job done is more important than the people they sacrifice along the way. They can believe that they can do their boss’s job better than the boss. They can believe they have been doing the right things all along because nobody has ever told them otherwise.
Beliefs don’t get changed by money. They get changed by mindful conversation. When you have thoughtful conversations about a subject, and create new beliefs about it, you actually change behaviour.
- Bonuses are about acknowledgement. Would you like to know why managers are sad when they don’t get bonuses?
People want their bonus, not because it’s money, not because they feel entitled to it, but because it is a recognition of their efforts and contribution.
People who are acknowledged verbally throughout the year will expect to receive a monetary bonus that solidifies their worth. If they don’t get one, it confuses them. It makes them feel unworthy, or like a deep injustice has been done. It gives a mixed message. It devalues them.
People who are not doing well throughout the year will experience the same emotion. When bonus time comes, not receiving a bonus makes them feel like they are not valued, and not valuable.
Next time you head into your office to talk about your bonus plan, remember this.It is not about the money. It is about what the money symbolizes.
The only thing that will change behaviour is really solid conversations.