Would You Give A Bonus For This?

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.

A business owner from California called me the other day to talk about her employees’ lack of administrative compliance.  In specific, several of her employees have consistently refused to sign their timesheets, which obviously delays payroll processing, while at the same time, puts the company at legal risk in that in California, like most states, the employer is solely responsible for tracking accurate time records for all its employees.

The actual reasons for her employees’ non-compliance are embarrassingly trite:  They simply do not want to sign their timesheets.  Nothing deeper than that.  

Yes. I know.  

I am still shaking my head too.

While employees do not have to sign their timesheets, it is a common practice nationwide.  As such, I instructed the owner to have a witness present to corroborate the signatory refusal, as the supervisor approves each non-compliant employee’s time sheet as precautionary documentation.

The compassionate business owner has tried to be understanding, though is quickly running out of patience with these puerile antics. She is now contemplating establishing a policy stating that if an employee does not sign his/her timesheet, the employee will forfeit his/her access to Direct Deposit, thus requiring the employee to receive a paper check each week.

During our conversation, she expressed sincere hesitancy in being so punitive, conveying reluctance that she must resort to a “stick” approach rather than something more akin to the “carrot.”  In turn, I informed her of several instances of companies that provide team bonuses based on procedural compliance.

For example, there are instances of companies that pay all field employees a monthly bonus ($100) if the entire field organization does not have any employee absences for a month.  Similarly, there is precedent for paying all field employees a similar bonus for attending and signing the roster sheet for all safety tailgate sessions during a month.  Thus, by way of extension, it is not difficult to apply that same “carrot” to reinforce all employees for signing their timesheets each week for a month.

Just to be clear:  I am not supportive of providing a bonus for completing an assignment that is part of an employee’s current job.  Being a capitalist, I believe bonuses represent rewards for performing an achievement beyond standard work expectations.  Bonuses are intended to reward extraordinary effort, not incidental administrative compliance.

Having had similar discussions with multiple business owners over the years, one of my inevitable refrains is “Where does it stop?”  For example, should we offer bonuses to employees for wearing their uniform to work every day, for not breaking any equipment during a workweek, or cleaning debris from their trucks and trailers at the end of each work shift?   Once it starts, it becomes very difficult to stop.

Thus, I would not propose a bonus of this nature, due both to its intent and eventual consequences. Instead, I would suggest that employees be written up for a policy violation of not completing their timesheet fully and accurately each workweek.   

That said, I will wholeheartedly defer to a business owner to make that specific decision based on his/her business model, unique company culture, and organizational circumstances.  After all, it is their company.

That is, until the time comes when the employees begin receiving a bonus, for receiving a bonus from the owner.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.