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I know someone who is an outstanding performer but is paid way less than his co-workers get recognized by his company. They decided that it would be cool to round up all these people being nominated for recognition, make them spin a wheel and get a non cash award. My unfortunate friend got a really ugly garden gnome. To say that it didn't amuse him was an understatement of the year.

Recognition is not a game. If you want to recognize someone, think about your audience. While it could have been 'fun' in a younger set of audience, my friend was a family man. I would have left the ugly gnome on the HR manager's desk with a 'Thanks, no thanks' note.

Quite a "non-award" there, Jules. Excellent example of what I call a "noxious reward" - a prize that offends the recipient and assures that the prior desired behavior will never reoccur. The Murphy's Law of Unintended Consequences, maybe ... a negative reinforcement that extinguishes positive motivation.

Imagine everyone has seen at least one of those! Of course, perhaps the disappointing award was selected by a senior executive and imposed on the hapless HR manager.

Good piece. Only a pie-in-the- sky thinker proposes to 'Let them eat cake' when people cannot afford bread. Thanks For reminding us of these important fundamentals, Jim.

In a perfect world, low paying jobs are filled by entry level workers at one end of the spectrum...teenagers work at McDonalds for spending money for a few years and then move on....and at the other end perhaps retirees looking to supplement retirement income or just get out of the house. Or maybe it is someone who wants to buy a big ticket item so they decide to work a 2nd job for awhile to earn the money, before the purchase.

In a perfect world, as we move up the career ladder our incomes rise with our advancement. We don't stay in the same job for 20 years and expect to earn the same as the person who got their degree, maybe a Masters degree, cycled thru various positions, and worked on extra projects to learn on the job. This person is rewarded with better pay and more responsibility for their knowledge.

In a perfect world, as we age and feel there is more to life than just work, we cut back our hours, we agree to freeze our good salary and make room for the young people to come up the ranks and take our place eventually. We share our knowledge and become content with our pay. We don't require annual increases but fair pay for the work we actually do.

In a perfect world, once we have enough of the basic stuff, we want income for the experiences we didn't have as much time for while working. (Although I would advocate in the perfect world, we would get adequate vacation time and use it during our work life.)

Now the debatable question is, what is "basic stuff" today and what does it cost? A TV in every room, a computer for every person in the house, and a car for every driver? Maybe in that perfect world we go back to true basics. We do in the end anyway.

That's the circle of life, isn't it?

Both E.K. and Karen are eloquently correct: you can't build anything on an unstable foundation. Plans based on faulty assumptions generally fail. Effective compensation programs require an accurate assessment of the behavioral circumstances of the workforce. Much easier said than done.

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