Can bonuses for just doing your job be justified

Written by Jim Walsh

A recent survey among Irish local government executives found that the vast majority were dissatisfied that they were not rewarded for achieving their goal.

The concept that you should be rewarded for doing what you receive a salary for and for which you are contracted, is one that has always bothered me. That is on the basis people are paid a fair salary for the work they do and have been contracted to do that work.

Why should anyone receive a bonus for just achieving goals? Exceeding goals, yes, but not just achieving them.

Would the same advocates for being rewarded when goals are achieved agree that they should be financially penalized if they failed to achieve agreed goals?

The financial sector is probably the worst offenders when it comes to a bonus culture but until the Irish economy took a large dip in 2008 there were many other sectors where it seemed to be the norm. Within the public relations agencies the concept of bonuses all but disappeared between 2009 and 2013. With the positive signs of an uptake in business no doubt the pressure to return to a bonus culture will reemerge.

There is a case for a financial reward where a company or sections of a company exceed their targets and make profits. Then everyone involved, shareholders, managers and employees, deserve to share in the achievement.

Underlying the concept that you should be additionally rewarded for what you are employed and paid to do anyway, is a view that money is the main motivator in the workplace.

There are many surveys published to show that is not true.  The survey of Irish local government executives found that despite being unhappy at not being rewarded for achieving goals, all of those surveyed got a sense of satisfaction from their work and all agreed that interesting work is a motivating factor.

Countless studies have shown that what motivates people in the work environment is complex and the key motivators are dependent on a range of environmental and social situations.

Security plays a part, so also does identity and stimulation. People need to feel relevant and acknowledged for what they do. They like to feel that what they do is meaningful. They value a pleasant working environment and leaders that they can trust. Interestingly many people like to be challenged, the harder the task the better they are motivated. And for others career advancement is the primary motivator.

And yes money is important but excluding those who cannot sustain a decent standard of living, it is not the motivating force that it is often given credit for.

The report “ Public Sector Reform in Ireland: Views and Experiences from Local Government Senior Executives” was published by the Institute of Public Administration (IPA) in May 2014

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