How can I divorce the idea of $$ from the asking for greater performance and goal setting ?


The situation is that we are at the Annual Goal setting time of year for us.

The work in this unit is pretty well trans-actional, filling electronic document delivery requests.

The request comes in and the request is filled.

We are in a University Library, so it is very difficult to tie much of what we do to profits.

My staff is already at the point of filling all possible transitions by the end of each day.

Over the years the unit has become more and more efficient and cost effective.

Basically, the staff is excellent at the core Job Tasks.

This time of year I ask them to come up with new goals and special project goals to work on in the coming year.

I keep getting push-back from one of my directs that insists that as his core job tasks are excellent (which they are) that he feels I am asking too much of him to add more goals and tasks to his work without greater compensation.

He will help cover on some cross-training duties in another department.  He has completed projects when I assigned them to him. He reluctantly accepts after I clearly state my expectations and make it known that this "is" part of the job.

I'll spare you all greater details unless asked.

This is the basics of the question.  This direct is clearly motivated most by salary.  

I have tried the occasional small bonus when extra help is given, treating to lunch, giving positive feedback and praise recognition, etc...

The result is always the same.  

Whenever I ask him to create an annual goal or start a new project that is outside of the "daily transactions" he expresses his dissatisfaction at the whole idea of asking for more and greater performance without $$ compensation.

I have very little control of his salary.  
And yet, am I not expected to always ask my directs to do more and be exceptional ?

Is he right ?  Is there a point at which my desire to ask more of my directs is unjust without compensation in salary?

Can I just say "Hey, you guys just keep up the excellent work.  No new goals this year."

JonathanGiglio's picture
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MT upfront - "If the industry (even University libraries) get 5% more efficient each year, your team must be 5% more efficient as well - JUST TO KEEP UP."

It may be that this employee knows you're stuck and can't give him any more money so he enjoys needling you as you are powerless to make change. I would make every effort to set the expectations that a) stretch goals ARE a part of your CORE function and b) that additional compensation will not be discussed as part of CORE functions, which include stretch goals.

It sounds like your team might actually be inefficient. If you are completely all of your core tasks and not delegating something to the floor, you might actually be overstaffed. I don't know what it's like to ramp up and down staff at your location however and that process might be too inefficient, making keeping existing staffing levels intact.

Everyone should be getting better all the time. Of course, the best managers are those who get others promoted. Are you helping this employee with his career path and growth trajectory. You should be upfront with this employee and let them know there are unlikely to be large salary increases here, no matter which stretch goals are set. And, if your employee continued to receive ever greater and greater compensation for the same level role, eventually they would price themselves out of a job because you could just hire someone else cheaper to replace them.

Hopefully I've given you a couple ideas to think about. Good luck!!


uncleauberon's picture

 Jonathan :

Thanks for the help.  It helps keep me strong.

I think I'll have to practice keeping him on target by saying that we are not discussing compensation right now.  

I am familiar with the "keeping up with the company % argument".    I understand it, but he is just not buying it.

He and some of my other directs don't mind making little improvements to quality and efficiency over the year.  They do it and I see it.

They just think that those improvements should rate them as "exceptional".  They feel that the road of  continual improvement is a dead end to burnout street with little or no benefit.

It also did not help that our University President just released a statement that said that our enrollment hours are down by 5%.

And that any consideration or discussion for salary increases will be postponed past the projected date of January until who knows when.


It is just very difficult for me to tell him and the rest of my team that I am expected to push them and challenge them to increase effectiveness and efficiency among a backdrop that they see no increase in reward for them.  

I can only offer them more goals to meet, more work to do, and more challenges to take.

I had a meeting with the whole team and explained that I can only reward with praise and occasional perks like lunches and $100 overloads.

Other than that, I made it clear to them that it is "my" job to push a little, to challenge them and to ask for improvement.

It's been a really hard sell, and I am finding it difficult to "carry the water" on this.

A couple of them keep asking if other managers in the organization are taking this annual goal setting as seriously ?  They ask if other managers are doing similar goal setting and development ?

My only response is that I am not in charge of other managers. I can only control my little corner of the universe.  And I am only responsible for my performance in the organization, just as they are only responsible for theirs.

Thanks for the help and the support.


leanne's picture
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Do you actually have any job description for this guy's role?

Speaking as an individual contributor, I can sympathize with the guy. It really *is* hard to feel like you have to do a huge amount more (or even somewhat more) and get no further reward for it. And it doesn't sound like there's really an industry to be compared against, since it's at a university, so you don't even get the industry-improves-X% argument really.

That said: if there IS a job description, check it for the usually-ubiquitous 'other duties as assigned' type thing. If it's there, there you go. (Although there are limits to this, in a practical sense.)

If you have no job description, write one - there's casts for that. And, of course, include that phrase.

If there's a job description, and it *doesn't* have that sort of indicator, talk to HR about modifying it. He will probably say that he doesn't have to accept it because that's not the job he signed up for.

If so, you can tell him that if he refuses to cooperate with having these additional goals, you'll rate him lower on his evaluation. You've made it clear that this is something you expect of your employees. He can refuse (if it's not in his job description), but that means you'll rate his team play, job knowledge, or something lower. Then ask if he has some reason *other* than 'not in my job description' that he doesn't want to. (Just in case there's some sort of legit reason he doesn't want to take on additional work. It doesn't sound like he does, to me. Since I've had periods in my life where, for medical reasons, I haven't been willing to take on even my normal workload, never mind taking on *more*, I'm a little sensitive to the possibility. Luckily my management knew why I couldn't and worked with me about it.)

uncleauberon's picture


Thanks for the perspective.

There is a current job description that was recently modified by forces beyond my control.  That ever loving phrase "other duties as assigned" does appear on most of the JD's around here, but was left out of his by an oversight, I have no control over it right now.

He has even tried to pull that "Is it in my JD ?" line on me in the past.  I usually just go silent for a moment stare at him and say It really isn't best that we go down in that direction.  Just because it isn't spelled out in a JD doesn't mean it isn't expected.

Thankfully, now we have a new performance management system that clearly allows managers to evaluate performance by each line of the employee's JD, AND it also includes other categories for University values such as, academic excellence, pursuing opportunities, community engagement, etc.

I usually align any goals we create, that are outside of the JD, into those categories.

So once again I let him know that his performance is clearly evaluated on those things regardless on what the JD says.

Furthermore, I shared with him my performance appraisal categories that include : employee development for future jobs, employee development for continual improvement, etc...    To wit, I point out that if I am responsible to providing this to my directs - ergo - my directs are responsible to accept it.

AND to address your suggestion, Thanks.  That is essentially what I do. I rate most folks who do the minimum mid-line unless they really stink.

We make the goals.  If he only does the minimum amount of effort then I will only rate him with the mid-line "successful"

That would be his choice.  And really,  I am an easy grader - and I always align the goals mostly to things they already do.

Recently I assigned the Goal#1 :     Participate with the performance management program, by meeting with the supervisor twice a year, creating at least one self-generated goal to improve relationships and at least one self-generated goal to improve results, to achieve within this year.

Yeah - that's it - anything that is remotely reasonable would be accepted. And this direct disagreed and resented the very idea of making a goal - of making goals.

He doesn't even realize that this is an easy, gimme, "Exceptional" grade on Goal #1 if he just does these three things (meet with me and create 2 goals) with a smile.

Extra work ?  Ha !  I have made it clear that I am willing to accept a decrease in results in one area if they are working on a goal in another area.  I keep telling him he still goes home at his scheduled time - I don't ask for more hours.

No excuses here.

Thanks again for all of thoughts it is helping me sort things out.



mmcconkie's picture

 Just to echo Leanne, I can agree that it's often difficult to know that more responsibilities are coming without additional compensation. Something that helps me put more effort in to my job (even though I don't expect a raise in the near future) is that I'm ALWAYS working for a promotion (which would, of course, include a raise). Help him remember that working to a promotion is an 18 month campaign and that he needs to be able to adhere to the 150% rule (there is an incredible Career Tools series on getting promoted giving details on 18 months and 150%). 

The honest truth is that I want to make more money. While I won't likely get a raise in the near future, I can always work toward getting promoted. It will never hurt my career to take on additional tasks or put in more effort. 

edzaun's picture

 Uncle A,

I few thoughts having been an individual contributor, a manager and now a hybrid. Hopefully, some version of these arguments might help.

Money is not going to pacify for long, even assuming you can swing it. Once the new salary becomes the norm, your direct will want even more for doing what he should be doing anyway. That is a very slippery slope. Once a direct wins a throw in this arena, they will expect a raise every time something new is asked, using this instance as precedent.

Continuous improvement is a base expectation of any but the most menial of jobs. If you meet base expectations, you can expect an average ranking. That 5% better each year statement earlier in this thread is the basis for this expectation. If you exceed expectations, conversely, you can expect a better ranking. This in turn, leads to raises and promotions. Reasonable?

This means the sequencing your direct is demanding is 180 degrees out of sync. First you do, then you get and even then it does not always happen. This is the nature of promotions and raises. I know I would not pay for something I have not received (increased performance) until I received it and felt reasonably well-assured it would continue.

This post let my inner High D out of its cage, sorry.  It is similar to a problem I am having with my work group and their issue is negativity. The first thought on anything new is to find reasons why it cannot be done (mostly "It's not my job") instead of figuring out how it can and then assessing if the return is worth the cost.


Ed Zaun

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Doris_O's picture

Does he have any personal goals or aspirations? If so, start there and develop a goals that allow him to develop the skills, experience and accomplishments to achieve or atleat work towards his personal aspirations. However, In my experience, part of the problem, is getting directs to: a) trust you and b) buy in to wanting to accomplish more. So if you are not doing the Trinity yet, I recommend that you start.

Sometimes direct's get hung up on the vernacular, they don't understand or have disdain for the terminology. In this case "goals". When I realize this is what is going on I stop talking about "goals" for a bit and instead ask simpler questions along the lines of: 
What do you like about your job responsibilities and why? What do you dislike and why?

So what are some ways that you can improve on (insert enjoyable task) that you like to do? 
What could you do to spend reduce the amount of time doing (insert disliked task) and still be responsible for getting it done?
From their answers I can help them develop goals for improving effectiveness and efficiency, that are more aligned with the direct's intrinsic motivation. 

So all that being said: I also work in academia. As a result I'm big on helping people learn and grow -- and the people who work for me, including student workers, hear that from me consistently. However, if I have to fight too hard to engage a direct in the basics of their job, such as setting annual goals, then I've learned to consider that my time might be better spent elsewhere.