Life is short. Most of us will work for only about 40 years in our lifetime. Are we doing all we can to grow, discover & live our purpose? At work, are we doing all we can to develop and serve others, to prepare the people we work with to be better leaders, and to reward our managers and mentors when they do right by us?

This week I’m asking you a hypothetical question: what if managers worked for tips? What if YOUR manager, the one you work for today, worked for immediate monetary rewards that came from, say, a pool of funds assigned to your group, and you and your colleagues could use those funds to immediately tip your manager for their performance? You know, like restaurant servers. How do you think it would influence their behavior? Would they be more or less effective? More or less beloved and respected by the team?

Looking higher on the org chart, if executives earned tips from their direct reports based on performance, would top-down communication improve within the organization? With this on-the-spot incentive system, would your manager be more likely to put their best interests first, or yours?

You may be thinking, “If managers worked for tips they’d be annoying, always in my face, working extra hard just so I’ll give them money”. For some managers, you may be right. Or is it possible in this scenario that some managers might make a stronger effort to develop and take better care of their employees? Maybe you’re thinking, “I would only tip my manager if they gave me a raise”. Tempting, right? Does getting a raise make you a better leader or more qualified for your next career move?

I once asked my service team this question as a thought experiment and it generated some interesting conversation and some good laughs. I’m sure we could come up with a lengthy list of pros and cons for this type of incentive system’s application to industries like banking, health, tech, you name it, but for this experiment I’m most interested in the managerial behaviors that might result from it.

How Restaurant Servers Do It

In the service industry, tipping has historically been confusing and a point of contention for many. On one side there are those that think tipping has gotten out of control, with some restaurants in the industry increasing gratuity to 21%. On the other side are those that believe we don’t tip enough to the underpaid and overworked servers who are just trying to do a good job and are struggling to survive.

A study by Cornell University, referred to in this article, reveals some interesting facts about how restaurant servers have increased tips. Here are a few of them:

  • Touching
  • Giving candy
  • Squatting
  • Being extra helpful

As it happens, some restaurants have begun to eliminate tipping altogether, with positive results, but the service industry is far from adopting this policy nationwide.

What Behaviors Would You Tip Your Manager For?

We know what works for restaurant servers, but what would be tip worthy behaviors in other industries? I like this thought experiment because it links a monetary reward directly and immediately to excellent service, much like the restaurant industry.

For example, I would tip my manager for supporting my growth and success. This might mean helping me develop an improvement idea, removing obstacles when able, teaching me to use a new system, or connecting me to others that might be helpful and share my vision. If you, as my manager, ask me tough questions that help further develop my idea? Here’s a tip! Connect me to one of your executive colleagues that provide insight into executing my idea? Here’s a tip! Save me from launching my idea before it’s ready? Here’s a BIG tip.

“An incentive is a bullet, a key: an often tiny object with astonishing power to change a situation” -Steven D. Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics

I might also tip my manager if I see them doing these things for my peers, or going out of their way to support front line associates, or if they step in to support my own team in my absence. Tip, tip, and another tip!

Would Tipping Keep Managers, Executives and Organizations Honest?

In his book People Over Profit, Dale Partridge outlines his theory on the four cycles of organizational behavior. He explains that all businesses start out genuinely honest, with their values and their mission at the heart of everything they do. This is called the “Honest Era”.

But over time, organizations start asking themselves “how can we do what we’re doing more efficiently?” And soon efficiency supplants values as the #1 goal. Customers and values take a back seat to efficiency and cost savings, and things go downhill from there.

If everyone from entry-level managers to the CEO were directly and immediately rewarded for doing the things their direct reports respected and appreciated, would they remain firmly in the “honest era” by staying focused on the greater good of their colleagues, teams, and customers? What if an associate could receive an immediate tip from their customer at the end of a service call, would it result in a better customer experience?

Incentives Win

The idea behind this experiment is to image how managers, associates, executives, all of us, would perform if we rewarded the behaviors we wish to see with a monetary incentive right on the spot. Would we see any small-scale improvements over time, like happier employees and more satisfied customers? Large-scale improvements like more transparency and customer loyalty?

What would you tip YOUR manager for?

Let me know!

Posted by Miles D. Shattuck

Courageous Content Marketing Pro & Breaker of Glass.

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