Do you remember the 1989 National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation” movie? This classic holiday film always elicits chuckles (or deep-seated laughs) in the same familiar parts, no matter how many times it has been viewed.
In addition to the annual laughs, the movie actually has a message that employers might seriously ponder for THEIR employees. In the movie, Chevy Chase plays Clark W. Griswold, a family man who is expecting a BIG bonus from his employer, which typically comes during the holiday season. With much anticipation and expectation, Clark must desperately replace an advance payment he made to install a swimming pool. However, the bonus received by Clark this year was not a handsome check, but rather a free year’s membership to the Jelly-of-the-Month Club. What a bummer! (If you haven’t seen this movie, I suggest searching your television programming schedules to find out when it will be airing).
In keeping with this general theme, a recent Harvard Business Review blog caught my attention. “The Bonus Employees Really Want, Even If They Don’t Know It Yet,” fits very nicely with a blog I wrote this past May, “Acts of Kindness – A New Company Holiday?”
The Harvard blog is really about — the well-being of Clark Griswold — or at least, that’s what I believe. As simply stated in the Harvard blog, “Monetary rewards tend to decrease the individual’s intrinsic motivation and interest for the job…it can paradoxically impair performance by leading employees to focus too much on the up-coming cash.” Just like our friend, Clark did.
Instead of providing cash to employees to spend on THEMSELVES, provide the same amount of bonus, but with an altruistic catch to it. The employee must spend the money on ‘pro-social’ actions – such as favorite charities, co-workers or through random acts of kindness. The Harvard blog discusses the benefits of providing pro-social bonuses, not only to the employee receiving the bonus, but also to the employer and the receiving communities.
Going one step further, perhaps hold a company (or department) meeting either before or after the holidays that will allow employees to share with one another how their bonus was spent. These testimonials can be quite powerful.
By establishing this type of annual expectation, Clark Griswold may possibly have spent his Christmas a bit differently. Perhaps establishing a pro-social bonus becomes “the gift that keeps on giving!”
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