Nonsensical no-bids. Some organizations offer sole-source contracts to a company rather than requiring a fair and competitive bidding process. This makes the supplier complacent and dependent, over time, never having had to win the business.
Guaranteed gratuities. Restaurant servers receive a 10% – 20% tip, regardless of the service they provide. This teaches servers that halfhearted work still gets a reward. So why try harder? Their complacency ultimately hurts the restaurant because a superior customer experience is built on the establishment’s ambiance, food, and service.
Automatic rewards. Annual bonuses are sometimes based on employee tenure or “just showing up” rather than on merit. If high performers receive the same performance reviews and compensation that mediocre employees receive, then we shouldn’t be surprised by complacency and apathy.
Gifts of graduation. Students are promoted to the next grade level regardless of whether they’ve met the minimum requirements. This “easy path” through school is sure to catch up with the students one day.
“Yes” — the most common cop-out. When we say “yes” to kids merely to placate them, or avoid a scene in public, they never learn the difference between right and wrong. Saying “no” to your children, when appropriate, is an act of love.
Unqualified quotas. If opportunity is provided to an individual based on special quotas rather than on his or her true qualifications, will this person use quotas as a crutch throughout life?
Questionable quid pro quos. Special favors doled out through nepotism or a quid pro quo rather than through earning a seat at the table have a real downside. Although these recipients may make it to the front of the line, the question remains whether they’re up to the job.
Mediocre meritocracy. Some organizations fail to counsel mediocre performers. Mistakes ultimately become poor habits. Allowing employees to “get by” in this way helps neither the employees nor the organization.
Emotional excuses. Often, appeals are issued that encourage people to buy from a specific source (i.e., “buy American,” buy union shop, buy local), regardless of the value offered. This may kill the incentive to be more competitive, only postponing the day of reckoning when value triumphs (as it commonly does).
Empty entitlements. Providing government services, in some cases for generations, rather than helping people to get back on their feet and provide for themselves is a sure path to dependency and helplessness.
Sometimes, well-intentioned plans have unintended consequences. We impose a mandatory gratuity so that the server doesn’t get stiffed; we steer people to buy “Made in USA” because we’re patriotic; we let the mediocre employees “skate” because they’re the breadwinners for their families; we say “yes” to our kids because, you know, we’re their parents and we want them to be happy. Even though our efforts may help the recipients in the short term, we are making them dependent on our good graces, rather than preparing them to accept personal responsibility for their future.
This is adapted from Follow Your Conscience: Make a Difference in Your Life & in the Lives of Others By Frank Sonnenberg © 2014 Frank Sonnenberg. All rights reserved.