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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Paid to Quit

by Doug Wysockey-Johnson

If you were paid $5,000 to quit your job, would you?

You may have heard of the “Pay to Quit” program, innovated by Zappos and replicated by Amazon and others.  There are variations, but basically employees are given the financial incentive to leave the company if it no longer feels like the place they should be.  The underlying reason is pretty simple:  unhappy employees make for unsuccessful companies.  Whether it is Zappos, South West Airlines, or Amazon, organizational leaders are increasingly aware that if you treat your employees well--if they are engaged and connected to the mission--they will treat your customers well. 

Bill Taylor of Fast Company Magazine makes the good point that the most significant impact of these Pay to Quit programs is on those that choose to stay, not the small percentage that leave. He writes in an Harvard Business Review blog

Once a year at Amazon, front-line employees, whose jobs are anything but glamorous, get a chance to sit back, reflect, and choose whether to re-commit to the company and their colleagues. In a sense, Pay to Quit is an annual performance review of the company by its employees: Can I imagine not working in this department, with these people, for this company? It is they who are making the call, they who are choosing not to take the money and run — which creates a deeper sense of engagement and affiliation.

The church we attended when we lived in Washington DC did a version of the same thing.  There was no money involved, but “members” (those who committed to lead and serve in the church) were invited once a year to step back, reflect, and choose whether or not they wanted to re-commit to this role.  Most did, but some did not, for a whole variety of reasons. Sometimes people knew that their work was going to take more of their time in a given year, or perhaps an aging parent needed increased attention. 

Commitment, passion, energy—this is what we want to bring to our work and to other roles.  There are bad days at the office for any commitment we make.  But deep down we want our efforts to have meaning. We want to be fully engaged, and whole-heartedly in.

Whether or not there is money on the table, it is worth it now and then to reflect on whether or not our heart is in the things we do.  How else will we know what matters to us?

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