Workperks: How to do this right


Workperks is a big deal. (Here’s an official site related to it.) I won’t go massively into workperks right now, but … I think it deserves a few hundred words of attention. Let’s give it that.

To my mind, there are two attitudes about workperks:

I’ve been on all sides of the workperks equation, and because I’m a revenue-focused cat, I understand the financial side of it too. There’s an attitude among many mangers that “If these people are doing their basic work, why do I need to reward them with perks?” I see that. I don’t completely disagree. When you sign a contract with a company, the whole deal (to me) is:

  • You will hit targets for the company
  • The company will pay you
  • If something changes on either end, it’ll be over

That’s pretty basic, right? I feel like we over-complicate this 189 different ways.

Workperks: The basics

You can run at me 191,344 different ways and say “Perks are just that!” I agree. I’m not against your basic idea. Perks are perks. They are not meant to be regular. I do think many miss this idea.

Workperks are supposed to be above and beyond. You did something extra for a client. Someone saved a project from falling apart. It’s those types of things. It’s not “Hey, if this person does their basic job, they should be given more.” That’s ludicrous. You smash your basic targets via your salary, although many don’t even understand that.

Workperks are a Tier II deal. That’s after you do well at your job. It’s not why you do well at your job. Those basics need to be stated.

Workperks: The excuses

Let’s be honest. People are tight with money, and that probably is more pronounced since 2008’s recession. No one wants to overspend on people. Wait. Wait. I need to correct that. Many executives will massively overspend on their direct lieutenants, but couldn’t give two shits about anyone else. This shouldn’t surprise anyone.

If you talk to a manager and discuss workperks, here are a few common excuses:

  • “Perks? They’ll never be motivated again!”
  • “It’s not my job!”
  • “I’m too busy with my main responsibilities!”
  • “Perks for them? I’m pleasing my own bosses!”
  • “It will be inconsistent.”
  • “I will recognize them in review season.”
  • “Our goal is to hit targets and make money.”
  • “I am afraid of showing favoritism.”
  • “It is too expensive to keep giving them Starbucks gift cards.”
  • “I don’t want them to get complacent in their role.”
  • “I don’t need to recognize them for doing their job.”

You can find any issue in the world and lay out 19,000 excuses. It’s not uncommon. Workperks are no different.

Workperks: Why do they matter?

I feel like I don’t need to belabor this section. People want to feel good about the work they do. They want to believe they matter. Many of us spend 8-12 hours/day at a job and to have a manager who barely gives a flying fuck is hard. We want to believe “Hey, we are doing well!” and we want a few workperks now and again to reflect that. I remain unclear how this appears on par with “rocket science” for many managers. It does, however.

Workperks: What are some examples of how to do this?

Here’s an article that helps! Let me outline three ideas. Ready? (Pause.) Let’s dance:

  • Release doves, smash plates, or have a party when goals are hit (more in a second)
  • Let people lead workshops or classes on a topic of interest
  • After three years, you can take a month off and travel

Let me break this down by “executive screeching” metrics:

  • First bullet above: relatively easy and OK
  • Second bullet: Easy and cheap
  • Third bullet: “Who you kidding, fucker? That trip is for me and my wife, baby!”

Workperks are complicated. It’s the intersection of motivation, psychology, purpose, and actual work. Very few people — or companies — do this well. The above represent a couple of examples. It’s by no means perfect.

Workperks: Hitting goals!

I think (I might be wrong) that this is the essential problem with workperks. We think about work, and what work is, incorrectly. Work is a series of tasks, targets, and goals. You need to hit them. You should be able to hit them in any way you see fit, so long as you hit them.


Unfortunately, we don’t view workperks — or, really, work — in that way most of the time.

I’m not out here arguing that you need to pay your employees $200 every time they do something “special.” But I am arguing that we’re social creatures and we need a few perks (workperks) once in a while to underscore that.

I’m also not arguing for country club management, although that’s a form of workperks, yes.

Ted Bauer

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