How to make certain you get your merit increase Essay

An investment firm in TV commercials makes money the old-fashioned
way–“they earn it.” That’s also the theory behind merit
pay increases or bonuses for employees, but actual practice is not
always that simple.

Despite a lack of well-documented reports that these strategies are
effective in hospitals, many administrators adopt an incentive reward
system as a quick fix to increase productivity and bolster morale. We
may 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 their
chances for a piece of the pie?

Before we offer some suggestions, let’s look briefly at the
problems. Incentive rewards can be effective and fair when work results
are easily quantified–for piece-work employees or salespersons,
perhaps. Objective data are more difficult to come by in service
occupations, such as health care and teaching. Here, staff evaluations
are more likely to be based on qualifications, personality, and
behavior, rather than on results.

Aggressive and assertive staff members are more likely to be
rewarded than their more passive co-workers. Not wanting to face Wendy
the Weeper on Ben the Bellower, evaluators may consciously or
subconsciously 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 now
demanding written performance standards. This we heartily endorse.
However, even well-documented position descriptions and performance
expectations leave room for gamesmanship in the merit selection process.
Here ar ways to win the game.

* REview your personal work ethic. Ask yourself the following
questions: Do you really put out your best effort? Do you make full use
of your ability? Do you do your share and a little more? Do you keep
up professionally?

If you can answer “yes” to these questions, you deserve
your 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 performance
standards for the job. Then determine how much more you are able and
willing to do to surpass your supervisor’s expectations concerning
your range of responsibilities and performance levels. Don’t be
surprised if the position description and performance standards are
skimpy. Ask your supervisor to amplify essential points as soon as

* Improve behavior and attitudes. The quality and quantity of your
work may be meritorious, but some of your behavior or attitudes could
cancel out high marks for productivity. Another round of questions can
pinpoint what’s wrong: Do I accept assignments cheerfully and show
a desire to assume more responsibility? Do I support my supervisor and
other mnagers in their absence, or do I join the detractors? Do I
follow 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? Do
I know my supervisor’s moods and reat appropriately? Do I keep my
cool, even in times of stress? Do I try to be patient and
understanding, rather than critical and complaining?

* Get credit when it’s due. Even if you exceed your
boss’s expectations, he or she may not be aware of it. If extra
efforts go unobserved, devise unobtrusive ways to make them known. Try
dropping remarks of this kind: “I’m sure glad it’s
Friday. We were shorthanded all week, and the workload was really
heavy.” Or: “I finished updating the procedure manual. Would
you like to see it?” Or: “I’ve prepared a new system for
inventory 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 make
appropriate comments. Many knowledgeable technologists who don’t
participate 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 still
go unrewarded, don’t badmouth your supervisor or the institution.
Don’t hide and sulk or threaten to resign. Don’e decrease
your level of performance by rationalizing, “If that’s all the
boss thinks I’m worth, why bother trying?”

What should you do? Request a counseling session with your
supervisor. In preparation for this discussio(, review your position
description, study your performance standards, and compile information
to support your superior performance, including: 1) duties now performed
that are not listed in the job description; 2) examples of how you are
exceeding performance standards; 3) recent commendations for your
work–copies should be in your personnel file; and 4) your continuing
education and attendance records.

The following dialogue between James, a laboratory clerk, and
Helen, the office manager, illustrates what can be accomplished at a
counseling session: James: “I’d like to discuss my recent
merit raise.”

Helen: “I have some free time now. Come in.”

James: “I’m confused about the evaluations used for merit
increases. I understand that ‘average’ employees received a 2
per 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 learn
that I’m considered average. I think I’m a commendable employee.”

Helen: “First of all, I want to stress–as I did in our last
department meeting–that I don’t like the term average. I feel
that employees receiving a satisfactory rating are fully competent and
meet all standards and requirements. So there is no reason to be
ashamed about your rating.”

James: “Whatever term you use, I think I deserve a higher

Helen: “Okay. Let’s look at your position description
and performance standards. I’d like you to point out where you
feel you are exceeding the standards.”

James: “Well, one standard says I should greet blood donors
and prepare the proper forms, taking no longer than 15 minutes with each
patient. I always get that done in 10 minutes or less.”

Helen: “Yes, and you do it very well. But since you usually
process only one donor a day during the blood bank secretary’s
lunch break. I don’t think this is a major responsibility. How
about some other examples?”

James: “Another standard says I shouldn’t leave more than
one hour of filing for the evening secretary. Most of the time I
don’t leave any filing, right?”

Helen: “You do a good job there, too. But let’s examine
the standards for your more important duties. I know we both agree that
patients are our primary responsibility.”

James: “Sure. Patients are the reason we’re here.”

Helen: “Well then, a top priority would be to make sure the
prothrombin times and fasting blood sugar results are ready for delivery
to the floors within 15 minutes after you get them from hematology and
chemistry. I’ve noticed that the reports go out 15 to 20 minutes
after they arrive, so you really don’t exceed this standard very
often, correct?”

James: “I guess I usually just meet the time limit.”

Helen: “Okay. Another standard states that CBC and
electrolyte results should go out by 1 p.m. Again, although you meet
this deadline most of the time, reports seldom go out much

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 that
these are two important responsibilities?”

James: “Very important.”

Helen: “We also have a standard that lab request slips must be
typed within 30 minutes after specimens are received from
physicians’ offices and nursing homes. You usually accomplish
this, but seldom prepare the slips more quickly. Since this deals with
faster patient service, it’s another critical standard.”

James: “So to receive a commendable rating, I have to top
those standards.”

Helen: “Exactly. Of course, you can’t do that every
day–we all have days when we fall behind. Even so, the standards are
so specific that we will both know immediately when you exceed them. And
when you do, together with your continued good performance on the other
standards, you will receive a commendable rating.”

James: “Well, I’m relieved to learn that the quality of
my work is more than satisfactory. I do remember that you complimented
my lack of errors during my performance review.”

Helen: “Yes, your work is always of high quality. Speed of
performance is the only thing keeping you from a commendable

James: “How much higher than the standards do I have to go to
be considered commendable?”

Helen: “Good question. If the early morning PT and FBS results are ready 10 minutes after you get them, if the CBC and
electrolytes are out by 12:30 p.m., and if the outpatient requests are
typed within 15 minutes, I’d certainly regard that as commendable
performance. But you have to be careful not to sacrifice quality while
meeting these objectives. I expect you to maintain the same high
quality of work.”

James: “I’m glad all this was made clear. Now I know
what I have to do for a better rating. Could I check with you each week
to 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 has
been perfect during the past year and that I doubled my number of
continuing education credits. Also, you sent me several memos from
physicians’ secretaries that praised me for getting back to them
quickly with old laboratory reports.”

Helen: “Yes, I’m aware of that, and you are to be
congratulated.” (To herself, Helen might comment: Gosh, maybe James
did deserve a better rating.)

The details may differ, but if you have a similar problem
understanding why the merit system doesn’t recognize your efforts,
this approach can clear the air. Even if it doesn’t lead
immediately to a further increase, it will improve communication between
you and your supervisor. You will stand taller in his or her eyes–and,
the next time around, your chances for an incentive reward will be
greatly enchanced.


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