In a recent interview with a reporter from a retail magazine, I identified some of the actions that employers take that impede the team building they say they want. The interview has me thinking.

Let’s start with commission-based pay. In the retail environment, paying a commission on sales guarantees that employees are competing with each other for customers and money. This can result in dysfunctional behavior.

Customers are descended upon by hoards of employees competing for the sale. People are not rewarded for helping each other. As an example, why would an employee put away clothes after they are tried on in a dressing room, if their only compensation comes from direct sales? Another potentially anti-team work action I have noted is when an employee is held accountable for the contents of the cash register. In this environment, no other employee can touch that machine even if it would benefit customers.

Additionally, if the majority of an employee’s pay is commission on based on sales, what is the worth of running the cash register? Not picking solely on the retail environment, as it is just one example, but so frequently employers are rewarding and recognizing behavior that they say they don’t want.

For me, it goes back to the Dr. W. Edwards Deming statement: What about the work system is causing the employee to fail? If you see behavior that is contrary to what you think you want, ask what you are doing to reward, recognize, and make the employee believe the behavior is appropriate. I guarantee most employees don’t make it up. They are taught.

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More About How Employees Learn and Contribute

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  • Why Employees Don’t Do What You Want Them to Do.
  • Make Learning Matter: Become a Learning Organization.
  • Deming Redux.

Contradictory Employer Actions originally appeared on Human Resources on Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 at 13:38:00.

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