Threaten To Quit And Be Rewarded - On Implicit Policies

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Implied policies are policies that are never written in any employee manual, but are implied due to real world practices or are side effects of explicit policies. The classic example is when an employee gives notice to an employer and the employer counter-offers with a raise. In some cases, a raise that was refused earlier.

This was recently well illustrated by Scott Adams in the Dilbert comic strip on May 14 (click image to see full-size)

This is probably all too common in many workplaces. I certainly have worked at places in which the only means to receiving a raise is to threaten to quit. At one work place, I knew of a couple coworkers who over the years threatened to quit several times each, receiving a raise in compensation of one form or another each time.

In most cases, this is symptomatic of a dysfunctional work environment that is incapable of valuing employees and paying them what they are worth.

Good managers pay attention to implied policies as much as they do the explicit policies. This is sometimes easier said than done, as it is not always clear what the unintended side-effects of a policy might create. Mary Poppendieck highlights several examples (pdf) of the unintended side-effects of common popular compensation policies. The recent announcement to dismiss the infamous Microsoft Curve is perhaps a recognition of the negative side effects of peer competitive approaches to compensation.

Johanna Rothman points out another implied policy when management is unwilling to budge on any of the four key constraints of software development:

  • Resources
  • Quality
  • Scope
  • Time

If management stubbornly persists on asking for all features (scope) without willing to budge on time, resources, or quality. Then managment is making an implicit decision. As Johanna states (and I reword), not making a decision is an implicit decision. By not deciding on which features to prioritize, management is effectively delegating strategic decisions concerning which projects to staff and which to postpone.

Once you start taking a hard look at your workplace, you can probably come up with a laundry list of implicit policies. What are some of the ones you’ve experienced?

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4 responses

  1. Avatar for Jeremy
    Jeremy May 24th, 2006

    In regards to the key constraints of software development, my experience has been that Quality is always the first to be de-prioritized, even though management won't admit such a thing. I believe this is a pretty consistent implied policy.
    Management usually:
    1. Can't (or won't) acquire any more resources for one reason or another.
    2. Won't push back the release date (which is usually arbitrary).
    3. Won't cut features.
    The development team will say, "OK we'll do our best!". And in the end, they will cut so many corners and take so many shortcuts to get there that the end result is a poor quality product, which is difficult to maintain, usually has performance issues, and sometimes does not even meet the requirements specified to begin with (if they were lucky enough to have a decent spec).

  2. Avatar for Carlos M Perez
    Carlos M Perez May 24th, 2006

    It's sadder when threatening to quit doesn't do the trick. I've been in this business for more than ten years and, mark my words, I've never, received a salary raise worth the name. Not once.
    The only way to raise your salary in this field in my country seems to be to switch jobs. Of the five or so times I've changed jobs I've only received counteroffers two times, and both of them were laughable. It's really sad.

  3. Avatar for buk naykid
    buk naykid May 25th, 2006

    The workplace I am leaving is a clear example of a "dysfunctional work environment that is incapable of valuing employees and paying them what they are worth".
    I just put in my notice and my boss offered me more money. Funny thing is, I complained about my paltry raise and he offered nothing. All the while telling me the product I was working on was the future of the company.
    You should really never accept a counter offer for a number of reasons -
    1. they previously showed they won't pay employees their true worth and you can bet your next "raise" will be below standard to put you back in line with their low valuation.
    2. they know you were out looking and will probably not trust you as a result. You can't go date another woman and expect your girlfriend or wife to treat you the same if you decide to come back.

  4. Avatar for to carlos
    to carlos April 19th, 2012

    probably because you were not worth it, however your new employer enjoyed your interviewing (bs) skills. Now that they were 'stuck' with you, you probably did enough not to get fired, but certainly not enough to get a raise.
    In my experience, I get raises, even if the company is strictly not giving them. Mostly because I moved 'up' which allowed for the raise as it came with the position.
    Take on more responsibility, do a good or excellent job at what you do, and it will happen. If not, then your job sucks and you should find another one. Smaller companies that are clueless usually suck to work for because they dont have many comparatives to work with to gauge performance and, usually the managers are, at best, managers and not technical enough to know your aptitude.