The Key to Increasing Quality - Bribe Your Employees


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Back in the 1990s when Bob owned a board shop in Canada, the company was going through a bad stretch, as board shops sometimes will. Yields were way down and they were losing a lot of boards for stupid reasons, many having to do with carelessness and apathy. Bob tried yelling and screaming, but, not being a naturally gifted yeller and screamer, Bob proved ineffective at this method. So he knew he had to try something new.

He thought about it and came up with a bright idea. Knowing that for the most part his workers were inexperienced and not very technical, he decided to bribe them to do better work. He would offer them something they cared about, something they valued, so that they would in turn care about the boards they were building and try to be more careful in the future. So, he determined his team’s true areas of interest and bribed them with booze, food and Loonies (that’s Canadian slang for money, named after the common loon pictured on the $1 Canadian coin).

I’ll let Bob tell the rest of the story:

Dan’s right. Before I came up with the bribing idea, I had tried the “big mean boss” approach. I used to gather all of the damaged and non-sellable product made during the month, label the boards with their prices so everyone could see how much they were worth, and put them on tables in the lunch room. Then, on top of each pile of boards I would place a picture of what you could buy with what that scrap was worth. On one table sat a picture of a Mercedes Benz; on another there was a picture of a ranch house and so on. Finally, on one table I just put the amount the scrap was worth, which worked out to be the average worker’s pay for a year.

Then I would hold a meeting and point out how much money we had lost, providing examples of what that amount of money could buy. I got mad and started yelling that if they did not straighten up, I was going to start firing people. I actually shouted the old cliché, “Heads are going to roll!”

But that never really worked. You see, in Canada, if you lose your job you get 17 weeks of social payment for unemployment, and then 64 weeks of partial payments. Hell, in that part of rural Canada where the cost of living was so low, getting fired was just like getting a year off with pay.

I realized that the staff did not care if they lost their jobs. That’s when I decided to use bribery.

Read the full column here.


Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of The PCB Design Magazine.

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