Are You Paid for Time or Results?

Posted by bob on December 17, 2018

Recently, while reading an online discussion about people who have automated their own jobs, one poster suggested that a key differentiation was whether the employer was paying an employee for time or results.

That made me think about my own job history and whether I was paid for time or results. There were definitely jobs where I was paid (mostly) for time. For example, TV broadcast stations were on the air for a fixed number of hours, and were legally obligated to have an FCC First-Class licensee present to keep a log of the transmitter operation.

Even for lower-end labor, there is always an expectation that the employee will feel some obligation to improve the quality of the customer experience.  If your job is sweeping the floors, you can do that task to a minimum level (sweeping dirt under the rug,) or you can deliver spotless perfection over every square foot.

Conversely, a salaried engineer might be given great flexibility in their working hours, with the expectation that they meet specific project deadlines and quality goals.

Sales and management teams are often graded on performance targets that are possibly unfair and unrealistic.  No matter how much they burn the midnight oil, they cannot predict or schedule innovation and inspiration.  At best, they can establish a creative environment that is more likely to allow breakthroughs.  These sales and management teams are often rewarded disproportionately to the engineering teams.  They also can be brutally ejected from an organization when those targets are not met (no matter how unfair or unrealistic those targets might have been).

In my own work, I did some test automation that reduced the amount of elapsed time and especially reduced the effort required to run audio performance tests on prototype and early production product samples.  I happily shared this automation with anyone in the company who was interested.  My intention was to reduce repetitive drudgework, while allowing me more time to focus on any failures (i.e. real problems) found in that testing.

All managers are tasked with juggling the four balls of People, Time, Money, and (Bad) Results.  Although our wisdom teaches us that managers can only control two of these factors, they are nonetheless tasked with trying to control all four. 

They will give you ambiguous answers if you ask them, “Am I paid for Time or for Results?”  Most likely they will say, “Well, uh, really both.  If you get great results, maybe you can take a little more time for yourself; but if you are not getting great results, you darn well had better be here trying for lots of hours to get those great results.” 

Yes, the boss gets to define what he or she means by “great results.”  Automating your work just helps raise the bar a little higher—and this ultimately is good for everybody, especially the customer.

Link to Slashdot article and discussion:

Link to original article at The Atlantic