We’re replacing your quarterly bonus with a lottery

“We’re replacing your quarterly bonus of ~$350 with a lottery.

The prizes are exciting. There are 1300 prizes with the grand prize at $100,000. But, the remaining 89,000 or so of you go back home with nothing. 

Oh, and to be eligible for the lottery, you need perfect attendance through the quarter. Getting sick is forbidden.

It’s exciting!”

The United Airlines Executive team shared these plans with their 90,000 union workers. The only surprise was that it took them 3 days to back track. It must be hard to appreciate the importance of ~1500 extra dollars in the year when you make upwards of ~$50M as a team.

It is easy to sit on the outside and question the intelligence and competence of the team that came up with this. But, it is likely the team is full of smart, qualified and generally accomplished people.

I’ve found it better to acknowledge that smart groups are capable of making dumb decisions if the culture of the group isn’t right. The truest manifestation of culture is in a decision making process. And, how a company hands out incentives, promotions and treats its employees and customers is the culture in action. This decision, then, points to a broken decision making process.

If you want to fix a group’s behavior, fix the culture. And, while that’s easier said than done, examining the decision making process is likely a good place to start.