The Fifty-Dollar Bonus

by | Dec 20, 2013

Yes, the year is winding down. If you’re like me you’re still rushing around trying to accomplish a few more things on this year’s list before taking a deep breath for a day or two. If giving year-end bonus checks to employees is on your list, you might want to check out the research that suggests there’s a better way to create job satisfaction.

Instead of giving individual employee bonuses, think about awarding employees individually or as teams with an amount to be given to charity as a gift from both your company and the employees.  It creates good feelings: “Altruism is a deep-seated part of humanity, the researchers said. They call these sorts of awards ‘pro-social bonuses.’”  Whatever they are called it’s good for your company, it’s good for your employees and it’s good for the organizations receiving the gift. What more could you ask for?

In the last several years I have worked with companies that were creating corporate giving programs of all sizes depending on the size of the corporation and its ability to give. Leadership usually decides on a dollar amount, and then brings the employees together in small groups, teams (or individually) to have them select one or more organizations to receive the gift. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just collaborative.

How much do you have to give to make it meaningful? The research suggests $20 is too little, and $50 per employee is sufficient.  In an experiment with bank employees, the study reported that “it turned out that $25 was too little to make much difference. But those who had $50 to donate to charity reported enhanced happiness and job satisfaction compared with workers who didn’t get to donate.”

Lalin Anik from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University wrapped it up nicely saying that “a minor adjustment to employee bonuses – shifting the focus from the self to others – can create a more altruistic, satisfying and productive workplace.”

What better way could there be to end the year? If you want to toss the idea around call me – or take a few minutes to share your company’s story with all of us.



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