Your Carrot Needs More Stick!

I’m one of those unlucky souls who has had to suffer on a hot tarmac at the mercy of the airline industry as whatever poor excuse keeps a plane grounded…without food or anything to drink. I sat on a small regional jet in Newark once for more than 2 hours – people actually started to get violent to the point they had to pull us back into the gate. It is maddening…and I know most of you have been there before.

A couple of weeks ago – while on a plane, incidentally – I read an article in the Wall Street Journal that brought some sense of satisfaction and vindication. Since threatening to fine Airlines $27,000 per passenger for any flight stuck on a tarmac for three or more hours, the Department of Transportation reports that magically the airlines finally figured out how to keep this travesty from happening. From May through September of 2009, some 530 flights subjected their passengers to this hell. For the same time period in 2010 (after the new rules were imposed), only 12 flights missed this mark. Well, hello! That’s an improvement of 98%.

Do you know what’s missing from the workplace? A good old fashioned whopin’. Biggest employee compliance issue? Performance Management. Managers tell us over and over again that they don’t have enough time to create meaningful evaluations for their team members. They wait until the last minute, they rarely find a way to provide touch-point feedback throughout the year, and once they actually get something on paper it’s paltry. We can train our people again and again to be “providers of meaningful feedback.” They might be the best damn coaches in the world. But if they don’t take the time to actually do it, why bother? So stop with the idle threats and put some teeth in it. Tell them they won’t get dollar one of bonus or that their upcoming salary increase will be frozen until they post up ongoing, timely, and meaningful feedback for their people. If you’re going to claim performance management is important to your organization’s success, then stop being mamby-pamby about it. And if you can’t do that? Just stop claiming it’s important.

What got the airlines off their assess? Threat of severe economic penalty. That’s all it took. Might this also work in the workplace? I’m thinking it’s long overdue.

Image Credit: Friends of the Big Horn River

6 Responses to Your Carrot Needs More Stick!
  1. HR Introvert
    December 5, 2010 | 7:59 am

    When people come to me and start a conversation with “We need more training for….”, I used to ask “If you held a gun to his head, could he do the job?”. Of course, I can’t ask that anymore or it will be misinterpreted.
    But your point is great. If you have a performance management system, then part of a manager’s work is to use it. It’s not optional. If it’s the wrong tool, then invest in the right tool, but if it the tool of choice, then it must be used. Modern tools have reports that show how well discussions have been documented, and even without that, you could ask managers to report on the time spent per employee. If they aren’t spending at least 4 hours per employee per quarter on performance management activities (or whatever your standard is) then they are not doing the job with the human assets they are responsible for.
    HR Introvert´s last blog ..Fingerprints and Dental Patterns are Diverse- RightMy ComLuv Profile

  2. Jeff Williams
    December 6, 2010 | 7:38 pm


    Absolutely! Thanks for this post. For all the talk about engagement and the expensive programs companies roll out, you’d think there would be a more serious approach to the free things employees really want: A sincere and timely thank you and meaningful, personalized feedback.

  3. Jo
    December 7, 2010 | 4:42 am

    Dearest Charlie,

    This is so true. Our Belgium government should read this article…. :-)

  4. Jim aka Evil Skippy at Work
    December 7, 2010 | 12:03 pm

    Great post — I think I hurt my neck nodding in agreement. A little performance management goes a long, long way. The key is regularity and consistency. I found an interesting source for performance management techniques and wrote about it at It’s surprising where managers can find excellent advice.

  5. HR Carnival – It’s All About Content | | HR, Recruiting, Community
    December 8, 2010 | 5:30 pm

    [...] Judy says that incentives need more stick than carrots at times. “Do you know what’s missing from the workplace? A good old fashioned whopin’. Biggest [...]

  6. Charlie
    December 12, 2010 | 8:39 am

    HRi – thanks for the comment. i think you’re right about the 4 hour benchmark…that’s what i’ve always used. but even then, it should be important enough that it just happens…and hopefully more like 5 minutes every now and then.

    Jeff – an interesting exercise would be to put a price tag on the maintenance cost of the performance management system and then attach a utilization factor to it. the result is waste. i bet you could quantify that pretty easily.

    Jo – glad you think this has global ramifications. i miss you and really hope you and yours are fantastic.

    Jim – regularity and consistency = the holy grail of performance management! and the aforementioned post of yours is classic. so true too!

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