Self Interest trumps everything. That is precisely why it’s the 1st Rule of Human Nature.
Despite this fundamental truth, many corporations ignore this core tenet of human nature and are then baffled when they experience poor results.
For example, I recently learned of a major US corporation that pays its staff a daily 10% “punctuality bonus” for being on time. More specifically, it is truly a 10% bonus that supplements the employees’ lower day rate. At first glance, an apparently understandable practice for a manufacturing entity.
This is where self interest comes into play. Like most companies, this firm offers sick leave — but at the employees’ lower base salary. So imagine how employees respond. If you guessed that they came to work sick, you are correct. If you guessed they came in to work sick, clocked in on-time, and then went home on sick leave – you’d also be correct.
It’s easy to see the numerous pitfalls of this practice, including some significant liability issues. No matter how well intentioned, any policy that runs counter to human nature and self interest will be intentionally undermined by those forced to endure it.
An associated truth of human nature is that people focus more on protecting what they have rather than the possibility of a future gain. This is why ads for major sweepstakes now say “You may have already won!,” as this wording enjoys response rates several times higher than “mail in your entry” contests. In a like fashion, this manufacturer could benefit greatly by ending the daily bonus and increasing base salaries by 10 percent. Punctuality could still be enforced by simply docking an employee’s pay for a late arrival.
Other viable alternatives also exist, which begs the question, why would any firm stay wedded to such a clearly flawed practice?