Solution Saturday: I Don’t Get Paid to Do That

Dear Dan,

I am trying to deal with individuals who continually say I don’t get paid to do that. In addition to that, they are never satisfied with bonuses received.

When I emailed you, I was dealing with five employees who refuse to do anything extra unless they get paid extra. For instance, we do regular maintenance every 60 days, I had asked the day shift to do half and asked the night shift to do the other half. One gentlemen on the day shift was great. He did the maintenance with no help from his colleague. Night shift came in and said we don’t get paid for that.

The one individual who chipped in and helped also volunteered to do some other work. I made the mistake of paying him and now everyone wants paid to tighten a screw.

Last year each guy received a $1500 bonus. This year things were tougher and checks were only $1250. As we look forward to 2018 it’s going to be way tougher. This is at best a breakeven year, if that.

We have between 15-21 employees depending on the time of year. They have an hour lunch and can leave when they get their assignments done. They usually get to leave early.

I’m frustrated.

Dear Frustrated,

Your email gives me the sense that you care about employees and conflict is difficult for you. Frankly, most of us don’t like conflict. But fear of conflict causes leaders to avoid tough issues. Three alternatives come to mind.

Alternative one: Change their job descriptions.

Why would anyone volunteer for extra duty if it means they have to stay at work longer? You wrote that when employees get their work done early, they get to leave early. Doing extra work means they don’t get to leave early.

I understand that leaving early is one way to motivate productivity but it seems like it’s doing the opposite.

The idea of leaving early is a great reward if it happens occasionally. If it happens most of the time, it’s an expectation, not a reward. Job descriptions need to change if employees regularly finish their jobs early.

You mentioned a 60 day maintenance routine. Could you add maintenance to their job description?

Changing descriptions is uncomfortable. However, if 2018 is going to be a tough year and your employees routinely leave early, it’s time to explain the situation and ask them to contribute. (I would not advise this if they were already working overtime.)

Make “extra” work part of the job. You might say, “I know this is going to be difficult for you, but we are changing job descriptions. If this is unacceptable to you, we’ll work to make your transition out of our organization as comfortable as possible.” (You might want to run an ad in the paper for new employees before implementing this change.)

Apologize for paying someone for extra work. You made a mistake. It’s best to acknowledge it. Your employees have the wrong impression and you are one reason they have that impression.

You might say, “I want to apologize for giving you the wrong impression. When I paid “Fred” for doing maintenance work, I was showing appreciation. I realize now that it set a wrong expectation. I’m not doing that anymore.”

This is going to sting. It’s frustrating to hope for painless solutions to painful situations.

  1. Be kind.
  2. Explain your goals.
  3. Ask for input.
  4. Make your decision.
  5. Deal with the consequences.

Alternative two: Explain your goal and let them design alternatives.

Gather the team. Explain what you need from them. Explain why it’s important. Ask them for suggestions. Generate three or four options and choose the best one. Or have them choose, as long as you don’t compromise on what you need them to do.

Alternative three: A combination of alternative one and alternative two. Perhaps you keep final decision-making authority. Or, you define the partnership and they decide if it’s for them.

Question to explore: What kind of relationship do you want with employees?

It feels like you want a partnership.

  1. What does partnership mean to you? Your employees?
  2. How do partners treat each other?
  3. What do partners do for each other?

If you want a partnership relationship, how might you involve your partners in the process of defining the relationship? Design the relationship together if it’s a partnership.

You have my best,


PS I hope 2018 turns out to be better than you expect.

What suggestions might you offer Frustrated?

*I relax my 300 word limit on Solution Saturday.