How bad of an idea is this for giving work bonuses?

So I just heard from a friend about a new method his company is trying out for giving out bonuses, called “virus pay.” Here’s how it works:

Every employee gets $500 dollars on paper. However, none of this is theirs to keep; instead they have to give it all to at least four other employees. So basically, your bonus is decided entirely by your coworkers.

This struck me (as well as apparently most people at said company) as an extremely poor idea, turning what should be a performance-based incentive into a popularity contest. I understand the intent behind it, but I doubt it will work out nearly as well in practice.

I can’t see how this can work at all in practice without seriously hurting some people–both financially and emotionally. But maybe I’m missing something?

Well, the hot women will be happy at least.

Edit: nevermind, didn’t read the OP carefully enough and missed the “4 other people” provision.

Yes, it’s going to be a horrible idea. Not only will some people get no bonus, they will also find out that everybody else hates them.

On the other hand, if the employees were smart, they should secretly make alliances with other employees to guarantee that they get their full $500 share, and they might also get extra from suckers who think nobody will try to game the system.


Popularity contests at work are not all bad; at work, the popular people are often the pleasant and co-operative ones, and there is more to effectiveness at work than job skills.

Good Admins would rake it in, or the business will fold. My department doesn’t even have an Admin, and I would still piece off everyone else’s.

Of course, my department would not get anything, so I wouldn’t favor the plan.

Why? All the guys will be giving the money to the least attractive men, because they are no competition; they can’t give the money to the women, because then the women will have enough money to go out to dinner together, and laugh at the men behind their backs.

Populrity contest and a game. Hate it.

I used to work in a large division of a company so large it could piss away millions and not notice. They had a system of monthly and quarterly awards based on being nominated. Out of 125 people, this small group of 8 women were ALWAYS getting awards. Why? Because they would constantly nominate each other for the awards, every single month. Were they doing anything worthy of the awards? Can’t really say, but I never saw much worth them getting monthly awards. They just knew how to game the system.

Given that this is Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Cliques, I don’t think this system would last 0.2 seconds before people decided to game the system.

What type of company does your friend work for, and what type of job does he do?

Reminds me of something we had to do in ROTC called “Fuck Your Buddy”. You had to rate your classmates so the game was to convince all your friends you would rate them high in exchange for them rating you high - and then rate them lower than earthworms making your overall ranking even higher. Seemed stupid then and even more so coming from the private sector.

Frankly, this sounds worse than no bonus at all; it seems custom-tailored to create jealosy and resentment. Maybe there’s some theory that this would provide more of an incentive than just, you know, paying a performance bonus, but I’m not seeing it.

Someday management will go back to just running the company and not sit around thinking up more ways to destroy morale and fuck over the workers.

We live in hope. No signs of that so far, unfortunately. Somehow “control spending” and “minimize costs” mean “take away any employee benefits” and “reduce salaries” or, as you put it, “destroy morale and fuck over the workers.”

Edited to add: Forgot to address the OP. Yes, it’s a monumentally stupid idea. So much so that I don’t see how it could have lasted the journey from initial idea to fully formed thought, let alone actually escape the brain.

I’d be immediately looking for 4 other people I could trust, to form a group of 5 that would share it out evenly between you. More could join later, if you trusted them, but you’d at least want to hang on to your original 500 by forming the syndicate.

Terrible idea, BTW.

I suddenly feel better about all the dumb ideas I have had.

Seems tailor-made for Machiavellian manipulation.

Sounds like company authorised work place harassment with side bets, to me…

No they won’t, they will continue to do these kind of things forever.

The problem with that is that most non-management employees have very little experience with managing people. The thinking is different. In-the-trenches, front-line employees will base bonus decisions on their observations of other people’s work habits and probably just their personalities. Management should make bonus decisions based upon performance and results. Employees do not have access (in general) to the data that would justify bonus awards. How could you possibly make a decision about which sales employee should get the most bonus without having any idea how much money or new business that sales employee brought in? Employees do not have sufficient information to be able to make sound decisions about how much money goes to whom. All they really know is that Person A shows up to the office, in general, a few minutes after they do; therefore, they are lazy slackers who are always late. People rarely notice that Person A might be working a few more hours at the end of the day, or at home, or whatever. Accomplishments and skills are not always obvious and visible. You never know what flexible scheduling arrangements someone has made with their boss, or why a woman has to step out at 5:00 on the dot every day (to go pick up her kid or something). Often, viewing behaviors as negative work habits can be the result of ignorance and not having all the facts.

Furthermore, because it becomes a not-performance-based bonus, the employees have no control over whether or not they earn a bonus. Each employee doing the rating will have a different criteria, assuming the company hasn’t laid out the standards clearly. So the bonus is meaningless, even if you got one, because it probably has fuck-all to do with your actual performance and/or contribution to the company. If I can’t control or influence it by working harder at something, then the bonus fails to become a motivator for me. Why bother, then?

We had an exercise at this job wherein you were given a list of all the other employees at this work site (about 25-30 people). You were to write down at least one really nice thing you thought about each person. Someone collected all those and a couple weeks later, we all got a sheet of paper with a bunch of anonymous, nice comments about ourselves. On mine, approximately 10% was related to the work I do. My skills and talents weren’t recognized so much as my more positive personality traits were. I really don’t give a shit if my co-workers think I am nice or funny. The valuable feedback included comments like “Always follows up within 24 hours when you contact her – very reliable,” or “Dogzilla is very patient with me when I am having computer troubles. She never makes fun of me for not knowing something; she stays with me until I get it.” That was useful. “Drives a pretty red car” not so much.

Hell, we had to stop using a rubber stamp of a dog that we’d put on a piece of paper and give to techs that “bird dogged” a particularly nasty problem. Someone complained that non-management had no right to single out employees for recognition. I can only imagine what kind of fuss someone would raise if money was involved.

That sounds like the best way to handle this. I’m reading a book right now on economic misapprehensions, and this idea sounds like it comes straight out of some misguided economics theory textbook. I am actually intrigued to see how this plays out in the company - how people respond to it. I have a feeling the responses will be nowhere near what management expects them to be.