|It's Difficult to find images of Merit Pay that|
aren't entirely opposed to the idea.
|The ATA will never allow Merit Pay, but I can still get a little |
hypothetical in order to discuss my understanding of the issue.
If merit pay were to be implemented in my school tomorrow there would be some teachers that would take immediate action in ensuring they could receive full performance pay. Those teachers would explore exactly what is necessary to receive the maximum pay for their work. They would research the criteria that they needed to fulfil, talk to their administrators about how exactly they would be measured against said criteria, work fervently towards achieving those goals (longer hours, more creative solutions to reaching their goals, more energy and passion in the classroom), constantly reflect on their progress towards meeting their goals, and they would also seek continual feedback from their peers and administrators about how well they are doing in reaching their goals. They would, in most situations involving this type of teacher, become so focused on reaching the goals outlined in the performance pay criteria that they would certainly not waste time building meaningful relationships with their students, or waste any time trying to motivate and work with students that are "lost causes." These teachers would be so focused on earning a pay check that they would not take time to help colleagues that wanted a little support or work with any students on non-academic issues. These teachers would almost certainly find a way to receive their full merit pay, or as much as possible given the criteria, but would the educational organization have benefited in the long-run?
The scenario above points to the first major flaw in performance pay systems. This flaw is also discussed in the literature around employee performance.
1. Pay is far too important to people. In the scenario above the teacher will not hesitate to ignore high-needs students, will not seek collegial understanding and collaboration (unless it furthers the teachers goal of meeting the performance pay criteria), would not waste time or energy on anything that does not bring the employee closer to the pay check, and they would most likely do all that they can to impress whoever it is that will be conducting the employee review. The teacher would also be far too tempted to behave unethically in order to achieve their goals. Further the teacher would come to resent students that take them further away from their goal. Not only would the teacher ignore positive relationship building opportunities, they would also create negative relationships with students that they perceive as not capable of helping the teacher reach goals.
Most people assume that a system of performance pay in education would revolve around academic goals that are measured by some form of standardized testing regime. Assuming that this testing regime could operate perfectly and actually assess academic growth, and not simply academic ability, there would still be considerable flaws in this system.
|Every class would become test prep.|
I have worked with exams that do get an accurate measurement of foundational skills in numeracy and literacy. I quite like these exams because they are accurate snapshots of how students can read, understand and perform basic math skills. If I were to be measured on performance of these exams then I would spend all of my time practising and preparing for these exams. I would not waste time trying to nurture a love of reading or create wonder at the nature of mathematics. There would be no room for creative or critical thinking. It is impossible for me to picture a performance pay system in education that would not suck out all of the beautiful things I love about teaching. This idea also appears in the research around merit pay system and points to the second major flaw in pay for performance systems:
2. Merit Pay will Create Single-Minded Employees. Campbell, Campbell and Chia illustrate this problem quite effectively. They state that, "employees may only engage in those activities directly related to reward attainment." Employees operating with this kind of tunnel vision do not think about organizational goals or creating a positive and productive workforce, two critical traits of high-functioning employees.
Let's move this along towards conclusion.
As the title of this post suggests, it is very difficult to implement a fair and balanced system of performance pay properly which leads me to the final scenario and final major flaw in pay for performance systems.
At some point a manager must evaluate an employee. In the teaching scenario this would most likely be the school principal. Relationships among the educational leader and the educational agents would erode so quickly that the nature of the school would be fundamentally altered. Schools in Alberta have created a systems where the principal leads by example, expertise, assistance, motivation and character. All of those effective and critical dimensions of leadership would disappear and the principal would end up managing employees through evaluation. Teachers would not ask for assistance, they would not reveal any short-comings, they would hide from the principal or only give them positive reviews of their work. Principals would come to distrust employees, especially if their pay was also linked to performance of the school. Even if the Performance evaluation was completely based on academic performance criteria, and not subject to a management review the system would inevitably create an environment where certain teachers are perceived as favourites because they get the best kids or the best classes.
3. Merit Pay will Erode Genuine Leadership. In any complex organization it is extremely difficult to create a system that employees find fair. It is also extremely difficult, as pointed out in both articles from this week, to eliminate managerial abuses and managerial ineptitude.
There are many possible manifestations of Pay for Performance systems, but if the goal is to get the most out of every employee than none of these manifestations is superior to the best alternative to merit pay. I am forced once again to return to Daniel Pink's conclusion on what actually motivates people.
- Take money off the table. Pay people what they deserve and they will perform.
- Provide Autonomy
- Provide the opportunity to create Mastery
- Provide a Higher Purpose.
Perhaps the issue will continue to be debated in other organizations and in other fields, but I am happy that in my chosen line of work, and in my striving towards functional and effective leadership I do not have to worry about the corrosive idea of merit pay.
|Merit Pay does not treat people as intelligent responsible Adults.|