a goal orientated sense of purpose

Life I’ve followed the coverage of the £120m in bonus which are being paid to staff of Lloyds and the subsequent share drop with increasing annoyance. It seems to have died down again this morning, but the way it was often reported, as some kind of indiscretion at a time of financial crisis has often missed the point, or buried it somewhere half way through the article. This piece from The Telegraph is typical.

Having worked for Royal Bank of Scotland in their credit card call centre (it was where I was going during all of commuter life and tales posts between 2001 and 2002), I knew immediately what this bonus was – it’s the performance related pay at the close of a financial year. At the credit card centre, we had targets. Our average call length had to be below a certain duration, our work (wrap) time after each call couldn’t be too long and our ‘idle’ time – for personal business couldn’t be more than I think fifteen minutes a day, unless we could give a very good reason.

Our performance was monitored daily, weekly and monthly across the year and if it kept within the limits we would receive a bonus, which was also index linked to how well the bank as a whole was doing. The bank was doing quite well then, and the relative bonus reflected that. Perhaps, it could be argued, that since we were being paid already, this was simply an additional bung to keep us in line. But rather, given that this was often quite repetitive work, it was actually a way of constructing a goal orientated sense of purpose for us.

These bonuses, far from rewarding failure, are actually rewarding success. It’s not the fault of staff on a branch level that these banks are falling over. They’re still working their socks off to reach these targets, in other words working for the bank as best they can, and these days, against insurmountable odds. I’d imagine they probably deserve them even more in these times of financial crisis since they’re facing a public who don’t see them as individuals but as much a part of the machine which is dealing with their money as the bricks and worn carpets in the branches and offices.

I know the words ‘banks’ and ‘bonuses’ together make for a good story, but please can we not turn it into something it’s not?

This has been your plea for tolerance for the day.

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