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Don’t Go For The Doughnut

Filed Under Human Factors, Software Process


Don’t get me wrong, getting a hi-five from your boss is a pretty cool feeling, and getting a gift card for Best Buy from your employer is pretty cool too; however, what I do find often are people that allow themselves to only be rewarded in this fashion. I call this “Going for the doughnut” effect, that is, people allow themselves to only be rewarded with the occasional box of doughnuts and never with meaningful or sincere awards.

For example, let me tell you a little story about a guy I know: This developer bleed for his project managers for 2 months putting in over 80 hours each week to reach a fictional deadline. When the smoke cleared he emerged victorious…which he was promptly awarded a $100 gift card to Best Buy.

Cool right? WRONG.

First off, let’s put this into perspective. 80+ hours a week * 8 weeks = 320 hours of overtime. The reward was $100 for 320 hours of overtime = $0.3125 per overtime hour.

To add injury to insult in this story, the very same day his boss announced they would be doubling the company Fantasy Football pot to a tune of $400.

Alright, so what are the three elementary lessons to be learned here for all managers and team leads? Anyone?

1. Rewarded overtime >= $1/hr

If you are going to reward your employees, be sure to reward them with gifts that at minimum equal to $1 / hr of overtime. AT MINIMUM! Two 80 hour work weeks would be very justifiable if at the end of it you got a $100 gift card for that expensive downtown $30 a plate restaurant for you and the spouse to take a night off and reconnect. That sounds pretty good right? What about an iPod Touch after a really long project – cool! Just remember that they value of the reward does need to be at least in the ball park of the sacrifice put forth by your employees.

However, probably the most appreciated of all gifts is reciprocal time off, even if it is at a lesser ratio of 1:1. Put in a 80 work week – take next Friday off. As an employer you have to be an idiot not to take these opportunities. As an employer you are trading 40 hours of work for 4 hours of downtime, that is ROI that you can not beat!

2. Fun budget < Reward Budget

This is absolutely critical but so many people get it wrong – always spend your extra budget to reward hard work before creating a culture of fun. Sure it is great to work at a place that likes to have fun, but they call it work for a reason. You want to keep the resources that are top producers, not the people who are loyal solely because the company is cool and fun.

Creating a culture of fun is extremely important in any company, but showing your employees that you are business first is mission critical.

3. Advocate Sane Hours

If you have read my blog for awhile you know that I sincerely attempt to advocate a 8-5 hour day. I too get hung up in the office a few extra hours, but permanent heroics are a sign of a weary team and bad management. Good management knows when developers need to temporarily bleed and when that emergency is nothing more than a out-of-whack expectation.

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9 Responses to “Don’t Go For The Doughnut”

  1. Dew Drop - September 22, 2008 | Alvin Ashcraft's Morning Dew on September 22nd, 2008 6:29 am

    […] Don’t Go for the Doughnut (Max Pool) […]

  2. Matt Wilson on September 22nd, 2008 8:27 am

    Great post. The way I see it, if you’re just working to make deadlines, you MUST sacrifice the subtle joy of building something beautiful.

    Instead of a doughnut, the best thing I crave is trust from my non-technical colleagues. In other words, when I say, “this is hard, and I can’t guarantee when I’ll have it done” I don’t have to put up with any crap.

    I don’t see how an intensely hierarchical environment could accommodate that, so that’s why I work with partners, rather than for bosses.

  3. Troy Tuttle on September 22nd, 2008 9:24 am

    Fantastic post. The paid time off really is a no-brainer decision. In most cases, I will gladly trade 3 or more hours of my overtime for one hour of paid leave.

  4. Make a bonus mean something « Rich Salit’s Blog on September 22nd, 2008 11:36 am

    […] a bonus mean something Reading Don’t Go For The Doughnut reminded me of a company that I worked for that did not seem understand that rewards for developers […]

  5. Arjan`s World » LINKBLOG for September 22, 2008 on September 22nd, 2008 2:31 pm

    […] Don’t Go For The Doughnut – Max Pool The intricate calculations behind doing a major amount of overtime, being rewarded with a seemingly nice $100 gift card. Which translates to $0.31/hr in this case. Don’t know anything about current wages in the US, but my take is that 31 cents per hour is not what most of you would like to work for… Max has some advice for us […]

  6. Matthew Martin on September 22nd, 2008 4:01 pm

    People shouldn’t work un-agreed upon, overtime unless they’re comfortable working for free. Bosses should sent home anyone who thinks they’re working for donuts. Besides, after the first 4 to 8 hours of continuous effort, quality starts to drop and software development turns into software sabotage as the developer adds bugs to the product that someone else will have to remove. And besides, if you treat employees as hourly workers, the government (FSLA) may start demanding you pay time and a half, not just Malaysian wages.

  7. Coder Blues on September 23rd, 2008 6:09 pm

    Another good post…and to think I could have gotten a doughnut. The fear of seeing the company fail and watching my friends lose their jobs unless we succeed was enough motivation for me…I feel so…dirty.

  8. Mr_Contractor on September 25th, 2008 8:32 am

    ABC – Always Be a Contractor

    Hey there is no job security anymore so make sure you work by the hour – always!

    Great post!

  9. Weekly Link Post 61 « Rhonda Tipton’s WebLog on September 28th, 2008 5:47 pm

    […] Pool has posted a great article titled Don’t Go For The Doughnut. “People allow themselves to only be rewarded with the occasional box of doughnuts and never […]

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