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I have been with my company for over 5 years and have been in a management role for 3. I recently took a new position in another department as a Team Manager. Besides myself, there are 5 other managers each of us operating teams of 10 -15 Team Members. I have worked closely with these Team Managers for years (I used to train their Team Members) but have never been in their department before.

Team Managers make bonus each week the amount dependant on meeting certain metrics established for our Teams.

If any of our Team Members make a mistake during the week, however slight, a ticket is submitted to report it.

There are two type of these tickets:

  • Type A -Team Member made a mistake and it cost the company money.
  • Type B - Team Member made a mistake but we were able to fix it without any cost

If a Team receives 3 or more of these tickets (of either type) in one week, the Team Manager is not eligible to receive bonus, even if their Team met or exceeded the other metrics.

During my second week in this position a Team Manager approached me and advised that one of my agents had made a mistake that did not result in a cost to the company so they were sending me the details but they were not going to report it because the managers never report issues without a cost so as not to cost each other their bonuses for something that was a minor mistake.

It caught me off guard and I really didn't say much at the time but this did not sit well with me. Later that night I submitted the ticket myself reporting my Team Member's mistake.

My issue is twofold:

  • I dont want to participate in this type of behaviour but I also don't want to alienate myself amongst a small group of people that I rely on daily.

  • An underlying problem is that the system is too strict allowing the tiniest of mistakes to have a massive impact on a Team Mangers' pay when no real harm was done and the issue could be resolved quite easily. Such a system, in my opinion, creates an environment ripe for such behaviour. Normally, I would suggest a redesign of the system to my bosses (they have before and would again listen to such proposals). The problem I face here is that the last 9 months of data shows that such errors are not prevalent and therefore there does not seem to be a reason to redesign the system. It seems that in order for me to show my boss that there is a problem, I would have to inform them that the Managers have simply not been reporting mistakes which has been skewing the numbers.

How should I handle this?

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    I find it mildly absurd that you need metrics to prove that your metrics are flawed. Is it not painfully obvious that self-reported metrics tied to compensation will be gamed? – Telastyn Feb 18 '15 at 15:47
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    Exactly as Telastyn remarks: the last 9 months of data shows that such errors are not prevalent and therefore there does not seem to be a reason to redesign the system Of course they 'are not prevelant', exactly because of the behavior you describe: they are not reported. Cyclic reasoning. – Jan Doggen Feb 18 '15 at 16:08
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    You report this all without naming names. But there is a much larger underlying issue with your company: the idea that such a detailed system (with reports and punishment) is necessary at all. That is what should be addressed. What culture/country are you in? – Jan Doggen Feb 18 '15 at 16:12
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    THis is why metrics are a bad measure for pay. There is no such thing as reliable metrics when tied to salary. Metrics should be used for process enhancement only and NEVER under any circumstances tied to pay. – HLGEM Feb 18 '15 at 16:30
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    @HLGEM - Amen! Especially negative metrics. I used to say that positive metrics were "tolerable" for that. I said that before Enron, Goldman Sachs, and Qwest had their respective "financial reporting issues" based on bonuses for positive metrics. – Wesley Long Feb 19 '15 at 0:12
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At the end of the day you really only have two choices:

1) Report it to management

2) Do what your colleagues do.


Both actions have negative connotations.

If you report it then you have a probability of alienating your colleagues. Depending on your interaction this might make continued employment there difficult. Before proceeding, the important thing to find out is why management wants non-critical mistakes to be reported.

It could be due to client requirements. If so, this situation might even be an "open secret" - meaning management knows it's going on but as long as everyone keeps quiet then they don't look twice.

Honestly, management ought to know what's happening. Presumably a mistake that costs money will happen less often than a mistake that is caught in time and corrected. We are human after all, so I'd expect an order of magnitude in difference. The fact that the money mistakes happen but zero of the other kind are reported should be a huge red flag to management - unless they are "in" on it or just dumb.

If that assumption (and it's a big one) is true then reporting it might be the end of your career there. However, do you really want a career with a company that intentionally hides things?

Now, if management doesn't know what's going on then it means they aren't the smartest bulb in the box. Do you want to work in a company like that?


If there is no real reason for management to ask for the non-critical errors other than computing bonuses then you could approach them asking for it to be removed entirely as you "believe it could easily lead to abuse."

If you phrase it right then you aren't accusing existing managers of anything, just pointing out as a new manager yourself that you could see how it could be abused. The language you use and how you come across is critical. Either way, you still want this to be a private conversation so you should let whoever you talk to about it know that if they choose to do something different you'd rather not have your name attached and that they are free to take all the glory.

It might help to propose an alternative metric that is something that they should care about. For example, I probably made a dozen typos in this text - but I fixed them as I was typing. Does the fact I made the typos matter or is it more important that the work is relatively error free?

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A third option next to the two NotMe mentions could be

3) Discuss it with your colleagues

Just talk about your concerns, about everything written here and see where that takes you. If you can come to a consensus that you'd all rather have a different system, that would be the gracious way out. All you left with then is convincing upper management ;-)

You're sticking your neck out for something that you stand for, for bringing integrity back into a system that is only partially working. It's up to you to decide if that's worth it.

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If you want to push a change to the system, do it based on its own merits, not on how people are gaming the system which will, in fact, make enemies of the people you have to work with daily.

I think you culturally don't fit well and will likely be happier somewhere that has no need to game the system. But remember most of the time (in my personal experience, I have never seen a place use metrics for performance where they were not gamed and human psychology being what it is, it is unlikely to find one unless the metrics are collected from an automated system that allows no human intervention), if a metric is used for pay, it will be gamed. So by not playing the game, you are setting yourself up for being the low performer. Sometimes it is better to accept the cultural norm. If the mistakes not being reported are truly minor, then are you really harming anything or anyone by not reporting?

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