An investment firm in TV commercials makes money the old-fashionedway–“they earn it.” That’s also the theory behind meritpay increases or bonuses for employees, but actual practice is notalways that simple. Despite a lack of well-documented reports that these strategies areeffective in hospitals, many administrators adopt an incentive rewardsystem as a quick fix to increase productivity and bolster morale. Wemay not see much merit in merit pay, yet we often have to live with it.How can employees and any managers who are eligible strengthen theirchances for a piece of the pie? Before we offer some suggestions, let’s look briefly at theproblems. Incentive rewards can be effective and fair when work resultsare easily quantified–for piece-work employees or salespersons,perhaps. Objective data are more difficult to come by in serviceoccupations, such as health care and teaching.
Here, staff evaluationsare more likely to be based on qualifications, personality, andbehavior, rather than on results. Aggressive and assertive staff members are more likely to berewarded than their more passive co-workers. Not wanting to face Wendythe Weeper on Ben the Bellower, evaluators may consciously orsubconsciously side-step unpleasantness by overrating their performance.Timid Thomas is less likely to get a fair shake. To make performance evaluations more valid, administrators are nowdemanding written performance standards.
This we heartily endorse.However, even well-documented position descriptions and performanceexpectations leave room for gamesmanship in the merit selection process.Here ar ways to win the game. * REview your personal work ethic. Ask yourself the followingquestions: Do you really put out your best effort? Do you make full useof your ability? Do you do your share and a little more? Do you keepup professionally? If you can answer “yes” to these questions, you deserveyour share of the pie.
On the other hand, if you feel twinges of guilt,start reflecting on how you can contribute more to the laboratory. Carefully review your position description and any performancestandards for the job. Then determine how much more you are able andwilling to do to surpass your supervisor’s expectations concerningyour range of responsibilities and performance levels. Don’t besurprised if the position description and performance standards areskimpy. Ask your supervisor to amplify essential points as soon aspossible. * Improve behavior and attitudes.
The quality and quantity of yourwork may be meritorious, but some of your behavior or attitudes couldcancel out high marks for productivity. Another round of questions canpinpoint what’s wrong: Do I accept assignments cheerfully and showa desire to assume more responsibility? Do I support my supervisor andother mnagers in their absence, or do I join the detractors? Do Ifollow the institution’s rules, policies, and practices? Do I keep my supervisor informed, even when the news is unpleasant?Can I be relied on to be objective and provide accurate information? DoI know my supervisor’s moods and reat appropriately? Do I keep mycool, even in times of stress? Do I try to be patient andunderstanding, rather than critical and complaining? * Get credit when it’s due. Even if you exceed yourboss’s expectations, he or she may not be aware of it. If extraefforts go unobserved, devise unobtrusive ways to make them known. Trydropping remarks of this kind: “I’m sure glad it’sFriday.
We were shorthanded all week, and the workload was reallyheavy.” Or: “I finished updating the procedure manual. Wouldyou like to see it?” Or: “I’ve prepared a new system forinventory control, and I’d like to know what you think of it.”The same thing can be accomplished through written memos. Speak up at staff meetings.
Ask appropriate questions and makeappropriate comments. Many knowledgeable technologists who don’tparticipate in professional dialogues appear to be uninformed or bored,though in reality they just aren’t assertive. * When all else fails.
If you try all these strategies and stillgo unrewarded, don’t badmouth your supervisor or the institution.Don’t hide and sulk or threaten to resign. Don’e decreaseyour level of performance by rationalizing, “If that’s all theboss thinks I’m worth, why bother trying?” What should you do? Request a counseling session with yoursupervisor. In preparation for this discussio(, review your positiondescription, study your performance standards, and compile informationto support your superior performance, including: 1) duties now performedthat are not listed in the job description; 2) examples of how you areexceeding performance standards; 3) recent commendations for yourwork–copies should be in your personnel file; and 4) your continuingeducation and attendance records. The following dialogue between James, a laboratory clerk, andHelen, the office manager, illustrates what can be accomplished at acounseling session: James: “I’d like to discuss my recentmerit raise.
” Helen: “I have some free time now. Come in.” James: “I’m confused about the evaluations used for meritincreases. I understand that ‘average’ employees received a 2per cent increase and employees who were rated ‘commendable’or ‘outstanding got 6 to 8 per cent.
” Helen: “Yes, those figures are correct.” James: “Well, I was very surprised and disappointed to learnthat I’m considered average. I think I’m a commendable employee.” Helen: “First of all, I want to stress–as I did in our lastdepartment meeting–that I don’t like the term average. I feelthat employees receiving a satisfactory rating are fully competent andmeet all standards and requirements. So there is no reason to beashamed about your rating.
” James: “Whatever term you use, I think I deserve a higherrating.” Helen: “Okay. Let’s look at your position descriptionand performance standards. I’d like you to point out where youfeel you are exceeding the standards.” James: “Well, one standard says I should greet blood donorsand prepare the proper forms, taking no longer than 15 minutes with eachpatient.
I always get that done in 10 minutes or less.” Helen: “Yes, and you do it very well. But since you usuallyprocess only one donor a day during the blood bank secretary’slunch break. I don’t think this is a major responsibility. Howabout some other examples?” James: “Another standard says I shouldn’t leave more thanone hour of filing for the evening secretary.
Most of the time Idon’t leave any filing, right?” Helen: “You do a good job there, too. But let’s examinethe standards for your more important duties. I know we both agree thatpatients are our primary responsibility.” James: “Sure. Patients are the reason we’re here.
” Helen: “Well then, a top priority would be to make sure theprothrombin times and fasting blood sugar results are ready for deliveryto the floors within 15 minutes after you get them from hematology andchemistry. I’ve noticed that the reports go out 15 to 20 minutesafter they arrive, so you really don’t exceed this standard veryoften, correct?” James: “I guess I usually just meet the time limit.” Helen: “Okay. Another standard states that CBC andelectrolyte results should go out by 1 p.m. Again, although you meetthis deadline most of the time, reports seldom go out muchearlier.” James: “I guess you’re right there.” Helen: “The earlier nurses and doctors receive test results,the earlier the patient gets proper treatment.
So would you agree thatthese are two important responsibilities?” James: “Very important.” Helen: “We also have a standard that lab request slips must betyped within 30 minutes after specimens are received fromphysicians’ offices and nursing homes. You usually accomplishthis, but seldom prepare the slips more quickly.
Since this deals withfaster patient service, it’s another critical standard.” James: “So to receive a commendable rating, I have to topthose standards.” Helen: “Exactly. Of course, you can’t do that everyday–we all have days when we fall behind. Even so, the standards areso specific that we will both know immediately when you exceed them. Andwhen you do, together with your continued good performance on the otherstandards, you will receive a commendable rating.
” James: “Well, I’m relieved to learn that the quality ofmy work is more than satisfactory. I do remember that you complimentedmy lack of errors during my performance review.” Helen: “Yes, your work is always of high quality. Speed ofperformance is the only thing keeping you from a commendablerating.” James: “How much higher than the standards do I have to go tobe considered commendable?” Helen: “Good question. If the early morning PT and FBS results are ready 10 minutes after you get them, if the CBC andelectrolytes are out by 12:30 p.m.
, and if the outpatient requests aretyped within 15 minutes, I’d certainly regard that as commendableperformance. But you have to be careful not to sacrifice quality whilemeeting these objectives. I expect you to maintain the same highquality of work.” James: “I’m glad all this was made clear. Now I knowwhat I have to do for a better rating. Could I check with you each weekto make sure I’m meeting the objectives?” Helen: “Certainly.
” James: “Thank you, Helen. I appreciate your explanations.Before I leave, I’d like to point out that my attendance record hasbeen perfect during the past year and that I doubled my number ofcontinuing education credits.
Also, you sent me several memos fromphysicians’ secretaries that praised me for getting back to themquickly with old laboratory reports.” Helen: “Yes, I’m aware of that, and you are to becongratulated.” (To herself, Helen might comment: Gosh, maybe Jamesdid deserve a better rating.) The details may differ, but if you have a similar problemunderstanding why the merit system doesn’t recognize your efforts,this approach can clear the air. Even if it doesn’t leadimmediately to a further increase, it will improve communication betweenyou and your supervisor. You will stand taller in his or her eyes–and,the next time around, your chances for an incentive reward will begreatly enchanced.