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Sad But Remarkable Email

Bob Nelson is the guru of employee recognition. It's the simple idea that people perform better when they are recognized and rewarded for their ideas and contributions. It's a shame that we live in a world where someone like Bob can make a living doing this. But it's true, and Bob does a terrific job in advising companies and leaders how to do this extremely well. He's the author of a couple of books, including "1001 Ways to Reward Employees," that burst with great ideas.

Recently, he shared with me the following email from an articulate and disillusioned manager in a large financial organization. I think this leader's views are shared by many. What do you think? Do you have a similar story to tell?

"....these days, merit increases, bonuses, promotional increases and adjustments are minimal...In the minds of senior management, the right to compensation has been replaced by the privilege of having a job. This has actually been verbalized repeatedly within my firm.

"With the right to compensation neatly put aside, senior management grasps onto organizational behaviorial theory catch phrases like "money is not a motivator" and forgets the conditions assumed in that statement, looking then to its front line and middle managers to keep their employees going with paperweights and golden bananas.

"The grandest irony of all is that the people who, according to theory, should be motivated not by money, but by all the non-cost motivators you mention are the people whose to right to compensation has flourished despite rough economic times. CEOs and senior managers who continue to take $17 million bonuses while cutting staff, eliminating over-time and reducing compensation rewards lose all credibility to perpetuate non-compensatory motivators as plausible management tools.

"With one half of one percent of my CEO's bonus last year, I could give each of my employees a raise of over $7,500. that would be a 15% to 25% raise for each of them. The additional money going to those households would likely be immediately filtered back into the economy, resulting in a new car or a vacation or at worst a college education somewhere down the road. Instead it sits in stock options or in shares of another firm's stock. After all, how many Mercedes can one drive at any given time?"