“Pay for Performance” is a Bad Idea

Pay for performance is a bad investment by Pete Waters

“Teacher pay set by the results” was the headline of a (Baltimore) Sun article I read the other day which suggested that “performance-based bonuses (were) cropping up across Maryland” in our state education system. Bonuses would be given to teachers and principals that were successful in raising test scores of students.

One of the many shortcomings of the program was that job duties were often not well defined, and favoritism was difficult for most supervisors to avoid.

Deming specifically considered “performance appraisals, merit ratings and annual reviews” as one category under the heading of Seven Deadly Diseases of Management. He thought that the notion of “teamwork” was destroyed by these evaluations. Deming further believed that the morale of the organization suffered because of these individual evaluations.

As Deming said (page 102 of Out of the Crisis): “The idea of a merit rating is alluring. The sound of the words captivates the imagination: pay for what you get; get what you pay for; motivate people to do their best, for their own good. The effect is exactly the opposite of what the words promise.” Understanding enough about managing organizations to know why it doesn’t work is not easy – which I think is a big reason why people go for the nice sounding, but flawed idea, I think. Read our posts on performance appraisals and the works we reference to learn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *