Happy to welcome this guest post from David Burkus.

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“Do you guys have email addresses?” our waitress asked. It was Thursday, and I was partaking in 60-cent Boneless Wings Day. After delivering a sarcastic “No” I asked why she was asking. She wanted us to enroll in the Buffalo Circle Loyalty Program. No, she didn’t want us to…BWW did. Most restaurants have some variation on “offer a free $4 appetizer on your birthday in exchange for attacking you with spam” programs. Our waitress didn’t seem too interested in gaining our email so I asked, “What do you get out of it?”

“I get a ticket for each person enrolled, and every week we have a raffle. The winner gets out of clean up duty.”

Suddenly, I figured out why she wasn’t interested.

In a perfect world, employees would be perfectly matched to their job. Every manager would be a leader and leaders would inspire and engage their employees by reminding them how their job ties into a larger mission. But sometimes you just need wings delivered to table eight. Those jobs call for transactional leadership, a.k.a., incentives. It’s a standard rule of organizational psychology: that which gets measured gets done; rewarded gets done better (or more often). Expectancy theory tells us incentives work when task performance is easily related to the reward, and the reward is desired. But if you make the incentive too complex, or one no one cares about, the system falls apart.

You get waitresses who don’t care if I become a member of the hallowed Buffalo Circle.

So what should Buffalo Wild Wings do? Pay for performance: a dollar for each enrollee. Or force rank employees: everyone gets a percentage in tip share equal to their percentage of enrollees. There are many different incentive solutions that would simply tie performance to reward.

A raffle tickets is not one of them.

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