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Performance Related Pay – Expensive, misguided and ineffective


"Spreading privilege" is either odious or non-sensical



Performance related pay presents expensive, counter-productive practical problems. It also offers a superficial concept of reward and recognition and a profoundly misguided understanding of the personal and social value of work. It denies and rejects the extraordinary power of unity and self-motivation in a common cause so inspirationally demonstrated during the Olympics.

PRP is logically contingent on precise definition and accurate measurement. Few roles beyond ‘selling widget’ simplicity can objectively, beyond dispute, meet these criteria. Try it: write down the essentials of ‘performance’ for a doctor, a nurse, or a teacher. Then ask how you would prioritise and fairly, measure them. PRP in practice soon founders on the twin rocks of definition and measurement: it distracts productive energy from ends, outputs; to means – pre-defined measurables assumed to produce desired outcomes. The consequence is to falsely reduce complex roles to distortingly simplistic tasks just to make them measurable.

Properly led and well-managed, most people want to feel pride and satisfaction in a job well done: perfectly illustrated by the Olympic volunteers. Would PRP have produced a better result there? Whether employee or volunteer, people are motivated by pride and want recognition first and reward, not always monetary, second. PRP will pay self-motivated, committed people for what they would have done anyway; and drive weaker performers to concentration on and manipulation of, meeting means detached from outcomes – lousy attitudes requiring expensive control.

A sensibly structured, well led, properly focussed, professionally managed organisation fostering and recognising self-motivation, has no need of PRP. Coherent levels of responsibility, rewarded through a transparent, proportionately fair pay structure will respect and promote healthy attitudes to work and an aspirational approach to achievement personal and corporate. It will always be more adaptable to a volatile competitive environment as it generates the initiative PRP constrains.

The Bankers and traders and their so-called bosses are the paradigms of PRP. Do we really want to corrupt the national workplace with the same divisive, toxic, selfish, disreputable philosophy of organisation, management and the value of work?


Zettel – November 2012




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