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Pay to Go Away: Bribing Some Workers to Just…Disappear


If your boss offered you $25,000 to quit, would you quit?

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I’m not talking a severance package. I’m talking a company telling its dead wood to “up and leave and here’s 25-grand, now there’s the door package.”

It’s true, and the company making the offer is Riot Games – the folks behind the hugely-popular PC game, “League of Legends.” Yet as legend, or in this case “reality” has it, company brass is serious about getting rid of weaker links. Specifically, Riot wants all its employees to be really jazzed, and those who aren’t, are just messing things up for those who are. So…maybe an ideal time to tell them to go; yep, even if they just joined!

To be clear, this isn’t as simple as it sounds. For one thing, the $25,000 offer is only available to North America staff, and might not be as tempting as you’d think for many hired in the $250,000 range – not as unusual as you might think in the gaming world. But it’s the message that’s very clear. The company is very serious about weeding out bad attitude.

Some might scoff at the way Riot’s doing the weeding out, but I actually stepped back and examined the whole thing, and concluded it sure saves a lot of time in needless legal and personnel department go-rounds. What’s more, it’s helpful to disenchanted workers as well. They get to decouple from a bad fit. It happens all the time – oftentimes it’s not the worker’s fault or the company’s fault. It’s just not working, so let’s start goodbye-ing!

And forget about the costs here. Focus instead on what Riot saves in the longer term here. Paying $25,000 for someone to leave is a heck of a lot more cost effective than keeping an albatross around for years. There’s the psychological aspect as well – negative workers tend to make positive workers negative too. Or as my own boss Roger Ailes at Fox News reminds folks: “Negative people make positive people sick.” And who needs to be sick? And for that matter, what company can afford to “be” sick? So maybe this ain’t so sick.

Consider the fact that a number of other companies offer similar payoffs to have their not-so-happy workers sign off. Zappos pays such staff members $2,000 if they want to leave; Amazon offers $5,000. The idea originally was to make it more financially viable for disenchanted employees to go, since companies discovered many of these workers couldn’t afford to go. “A little money to push them out the door doesn’t hurt,” one top retail executive explained.

But it also sends a not-so-subtle message to those who remain: get jazzed, or get out. Again, I see nothing wrong with that sentiment, or bosses pushing that sentiment. I’ve seen for myself that an effective team is generally a spirited team, and a spirited team is generally an effective team. Good attitudes are as contagious as bad attitudes can be cancerous. Touché to those companies that see there’s money to be made offering money to those workers who just aren’t making it or loving it.

Riot Games describes its actions in much more basic “gaming” terms. “Rather than allow mismatches to fester, we want to resolve them quickly,” the company explained in a blog announcing the program. “This is good for the company and good for the professional. We’ll learn this and make better hiring decisions as a result.”

Or so, Riot hopes. Oftentimes no matter how companies police who they hire – and fire (even with pay) – some less than ideal candidates slip through the cracks and set up permanent shop. Even game-makers can’t rid themselves of these out-of-the-blue assaults. But they’re among the first to try. That’s because their entire esprit de corps relies on innovative and outside-the-box creative thinking. For that creativity to take hold, it pays to let those who don’t share it…go.

The question now is whether $25,000 is enough to make higher-paid dead wood float away? Hard to say. If history is any guide and companies like Riot Games are right, forking over more dough may well be money in the bank. It costs money up front to push them out the door, but it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than keeping inside, stinking up the place because you never had the guts to simply give them a handshake and a nice check to say…goodbye.

What do you think?

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