The project was finished, the thank yous said, and it was time to consider how to reward all those who served so well for endless hours worked. They knew they did not want to give a cookie, like in a previous project. The project leader knew that cash was always good, and decided to hand out bonuses.
But not to everybody.
She handed out bonuses just to certain people, those she felt had led the project to its success. Those who worked the late hours, but did not lead a team on the project would not only miss out on any bonus, but those who did get a bonus were sworn to secrecy so those who didn’t would not feel left out. In other words, rewarding people in secret was the buzzword of the day. Unfortunately, we all know how well secrets are kept in corporations.
Soon enough, the secret was out, and Emma, who had worked very hard on the project, went into her boss, the project leader, to understand why she wasn’t given a bonus. The answer given was that there wasn’t enough money to give to everyone, so bonuses were only given to the project leads. It sounded reasonable, though unsatisfying to Emma, who knew she would not win this argument. If there wasn’t enough money to go around, what could she do?
The argument that there wasn’t enough money to go around lost some of its validity when it was revealed that, thanks to the hard work of all the project participants, the project came in under budget to the tune of $6,000,000. Six million dollars. The project manager mentioned it to show how well she had managed the project. In addition, it was discovered that, contrary to what the project leader claimed, staff other than the leads had received bonuses. The staff who had not received bonuses were left with the feeling that they were lied to in addition to being cheated out of money they could have used. To this, the project manager had no answer. She was more interested in flaunting her prowess in managing the project than to use some of that money to properly thank all her staff, not just those she felt should be rewarded.
When you keep secrets from your staff because you rewarded only some of them, you are setting up an environment where you will never be trusted or respected again. More than that, you encourage divisiveness between the haves and the have nots. When you compound that with the fact that there was enough for a reward for everyone, but you opted to fabricate an excuse for why some people could not get the reward, you have pretty much told your staff that your only concern is yourself. When you model that behavior, you cannot expect your employees to want to give their all to the company, act with integrity, or have any trust in your management at all. Your power has gone from influence based on respect to a staff simply doing what they are told for fear of being fired. They fear being fired because you, as a manager, have shown you have no respect for them or their work.
One of my favorite sayings is that every decision has its consequences. So this manager could trumpet the savings she had and reward her friends on the project, she disenfranchised scores of employees who may never have the motivation again to put in the hours needed to make future projects successful. See what money you can save, but first and foremost, respect those who labored so hard to make it a success,. It is a long term investment to ensure that when that staff is called upon to give of themselves once again, they do so willingly, because their manager is one who cares as much about them as he or she does about the project.