Pay unhappy and underperforming employees to quit for the sake of improving productivity?

You hired someone and they accepted the job. You are excited for this candidate because you see the potential they have with a great interview. Months pass by and the new hire’s drive starts to fade. Why is that happening so often? The issue is many employees acquire a job without thinking of the alternatives making them view your offer as just a “job” to make ends meet. This leads to disengaged employees. There are other factors that should be considered, but this is just a major one.  


How many employees worldwide would you guess are engaged in the work they do? Surprisingly, according to a 2012 Gallup poll only 29% in the United States report that they are engaged in their work. Less than one third of your employees are actually doing their job to their fullest extent and that is something you know hits home. You tried bonuses, increasing wages, and yet the motivation does not seem to increase to the original level.

How does a giant company like Amazon combat this problem? They took a page out of Zappos (a company they acquired) employer’s playbook. Pay them to quit. As counterintuitive as this sounds, it’s worth considering as it can potentially save one a lot of money and headache in the long run. 


To be fair, the headline on the memo they give to each employee on a yearly basis states “Please Don’t Take This Offer,” this makes the employees make a conscious decision to choose to become engaged a 2nd time. This is different from the first time because now security of the job is assured. Imagine making a decision when money is getting tight, often this is enough for people to make the wrong decision because it is viewed as a necessary decision instead of a desired outcome. When they already have job security they are free to make a decision that isn’t made under stressful circumstances. Coupled with the fact that if they are unhappy they are free to find another job without rushing, while receiving a “quitting” bonus, you provide them an opportunity to decide to either leave your place of business or start appreciating it. 


The negative aspects of this are short term. A new hire now has to be found and the cycle of finding the right candidates is random at best, but this will eventually lead to engaged employees that actually want to work with you. It also puts a quantifiable value on the job itself. To consciously make the choice of rejecting $1,000 to keep a job you already have puts a value that one was not made aware of before. Amazon also increases the pay out by $1,000 every year with a maximum limit of $5,000 further increasing the value of the job. 


It does not mean you have to run with the same business model of a $1,000 quitting bonus, but rather learn from it. It could be as simple as saying to an underperforming staff member that if they are not happy in their current position you can gladly write a letter of recommendation and give them the opportunity to find a new job without creating any tension. The goal is to make sure they make a conscious decision that if they are going to stay in that job they have to want to meet certain expectations.  The most important thing is to make sure you find the right team that believes in your vision. If this is not done you will bleed out and how long it takes will vary from months to years. 


How do you know which employees are engaged? Some offices are successful as a whole because they have the luxury of having several employees who carry the weight. This could lead to resentment so figuring out who is not pulling their weight is essential. Here are some qualities that you should be able to see in engaged employees. 


  • Separating the noise from the work. Problems happen and that can affect performance in disengaged employees. Engaged employees are able to function looking for solutions instead of excuses
    • Example of a disengaged employee: “I can’t clean the instruments because there are no brushes”
    • Example of an engaged employee: “I see we need some new brushes to clean the instruments, can I order some?”


  • They strive for improvement and increased efficiency especially with their strengths. 
    • Example of an engaged employee: Someone who is able to present treatment plans starts to implement strategies and protocols to increase case acceptance. 


  • They are able to understand their limitations and weaknesses. It’s not to say that you would want someone with the inability to improve on their weaknesses, but rather finding ways to delegate those tasks so that it can be done more efficiently. 
    • Ex: Someone whose strong suit is not a treatment plan presentation, can do other tasks to support the office.
  • They are able to be independent and proactive with their responsibilities.
    • Example of a disengaged employee: Running out of composite and giving the excuse that they were not told to order/inform especially if they knew it was running out. 
  • They are intentional about their engagement removing distractions like phones and office talking. They are able to focus on the task at hand and know the appropriate time to take a moment to relax. 


  • They take accountability for their performance instead of blaming others when things didn’t go as expected.


The most important aspect to glean from Amazon’s novel business concept is that one can find unconventional solutions to common problems.

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