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First, as a business owner, founder, and CEO of both a software business and a part owner and leader in a professional service firm, I totally understand and empathize with you being so frustrated. Mostly, however, I want to personally thank you for blowing up the internet with your response and bringing to light an issue that I believe is so overlooked throughout most of the year. The power of proper compensation.

Your “pity city” rant has received days of headlines, but what is the real problem here? Why are your employees frustrated? Why are you so frustrated that all they care about is money rather than working? Let us answer some of these questions and solve all your problems!

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Pity City and bonuses the solution to Andi Owens dillema

For the past 5 years I have worked with hundreds of companies to understand and unlock the power of properly managed bonus plans. While it would have been so much easier and cheaper to just work with business owners to craft a way to tell their employees to get out of “Pity City” and “go get the $26 million dollars”, we ended up taking a slightly different approach. It all begins with transparency!

We can focus on why this generation of workers is so entitled and why they can’t just go to work like we did. But that doesn’t solve the fact that their culture and upbringing made them who they are. They’re capable of incredible things that you and I could never accomplish. But they crave flexibility, feedback, and the ability to control their destiny. That’s why you got so many responses when you took away their bonuses. You took away so much more than money.

Bonuses must be done right. A check at the end of the year is nice, but it must be more than a check. We’ve seen huge bonuses demotivate employees and a $50 spiff motivate team members to do some unimaginable things. The best part about bonus plans is that they’re discretionary. You get to set the ground rules based on what you want to accomplish. Every time you paid a bonus in the last few years, you set the ground rules. You broke the rules by taking it away this year. Did all your employees fail to work as hard?

When you build a bonus plan with transparency in mind, everyone wins. Make it clear that a paycheck is for doing their job, and bonuses are for extra effort.

  • Provide transparency on what parameters the company must hit before bonuses are paid.
  • Provide transparency in what they can do to earn their bonus.
  • Provide transparency in what they can do to earn more.

Then, provide real-time feedback on how their current effort translates into their extra earnings. Finally, allow them the flexibility to figure out how to maximize their bonus, if they choose. That’s the sweet spot. Then, your bonuses will become a true incentive and not an entitlement that invokes unrest.

Again, thank you for the attention you’ve given to this topic and thank you for your efforts in adding more employees to the hiring pool.

Ryan Jolley


Plentive, making your incentives mean more!

If you missed out on the, Andi Owens, Pity City video you can view it here.


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