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Really Bad Decisions

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 08-05-2017

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942217_1015285940, by Dan MantylaWhen speaking before a group I’m often asked what key takeaways or gems of wisdom I have learned during the course of my career.  Like most of you, I’m still at it, learning something new every day, but I have gained a valuable perspective from what I’ve seen and experienced.  I’ve learned that professional wisdom comes to each of us in two ways; 1) what you learn to do (what works), and 2) what mistakes you’ve seen or made (what doesn’t work).

Here’s hoping that your career manages to stay on the straight and narrow with positive role models and valuable experiences, but all too often we learn our most useful lessons from failures, from tactics or decisions that didn’t work.  Or from failed managers whom we’ve worked for, those who made repeating mistakes a personal career choice. Either experience can offer valuable lessons that can shape your career.

Common Goofs

Putting together an all-inclusive list of examples would become an endless affair, given the myriad scenarios, personalities and business circumstances that could be involved.  So instead we’ll try to highlight the big mistakes.  Below are reflections of my personal experiences.

  • General Adjustment vs. Merit:  Granting all employees the same pay raise, instead of varying increases on the basis of performance delivered.  Being easy to administer is rarely an effective strategy.
  • Performance vs. Entitlement:  Rewarding management more generously than other employee segments – simply because they’re management.  Leadership is no more entitled to rewards than any other employee group.
  • Discretionary Assessments: When reviewing employees on a subjective vs. objective basis management discretion can sometimes lead to abuses (favored sons, “halo” effect, or even discrimination).
  • Abuse of FLSA Exemptions:  Avoiding overtime by treating non-exempt employees as if they were exempt.  Managers never tire of trying this tactic, and it can really cost you.
  • Surveys says!:  Using a title and a generic catch-all write-up for matching jobs against “the market.”  It’s the easy way.  Anyone can do it.  There’s nothing to interpret, is there?
  • The Performance Distribution Curve:  Assigning individual assessments of employee performance in a manner set to adhere to a bell-shaped graph.  Nobody likes this tactic, except perhaps lawyers for your employees.
  • Ignoring Internal Equity:  Hiring/promoting employees without consideration of how other like-qualified employees are paid.  There are no secrets, so pleasing one while angering two is a dubious tactic.
  • Title Inflation:  That meaningless “bone” you toss employees whom you can’t otherwise reward.  This tactic will raise fixed costs, but without providing a corresponding benefit to the company.  You will eventually regret this decision.
  • The Absent Safety Valve:  To be successful over time, your program should be able to bend, but not break.  This means that sometimes exceptions have to be made, for good business, compassionate or even political reasons.  Not every circumstance will fit into your mold.

Can you see possible rationalizations for pursuing each of the above?  Justification depends on a litany of possible circumstances, individuals and . . . whatever.  Just have a care that your rationalizations don’t become a pattern of indefensible excuses and that you document.

Really Bad Decisions

Then there are those oops! decisions that over the course of one’s career you continue to regret – wishing you had the time to reboot your thought processes.

  • Hiring a friend/relative:  If you would hesitate to sell them a used car, why would you ever think that hiring them would be a good idea?  Correcting this mistake can be painful.
  • Ignoring Office Politics:  I’m not very good at politics” is a poor response to an important reality of the workplace that all managers need to deal with.  It’s all around us, so to pretend you’re above it all, or otherwise ignore it, is likely going to be counter-productive.
  • Performance is everything:  No, it isn’t.  Not anymore.  In today’s workplace image and exposure have become dominant, to the extent that just doing a good job is no longer enough to ensure career progression or even longevity.
  • I was too busy for networking:  Usually heard from people in transition, from those who failed to connect with colleagues, peers and industry insiders while they were employed.  Build your network when you don’t need it, so it’s there for when you do.

Have I missed anything?  Are there other ill-considered compensation practices that you’ve experienced during your own career?

Let me know.

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