The Technium

Bribe Your New Employees To Quit

This is one of the coolest counterintuitive ideas I’ve heard in a long time. It’s gotten some play in the blogomedia, but it’s still worth pointing out. The advice for companies goes like this:

Pinpoint the least committed of your new employees by offering them $1,000 to quit. The ones who take this early buyout after only a few weeks on the job will be the ones you don’t want in the long term.

Details here, courtesy of Bill Taylor, former Fast Company editor, who writes in Harvard Business Review about the hiring practices of Zappos, the legendary online shoe company. He says:


[Zappos] is a company that’s bursting with personality, to the point where a huge number of its 1,600 employees are power users of Twitter so that their friends, colleagues, and customers know what they’re up to at any moment in time. But here’s what’s really interesting. It’s a hard job, answering phones and talking to customers for hours at a time. So when Zappos hires new employees, it provides a four-week training period that immerses them in the company’s strategy, culture, and obsession with customers. People get paid their full salary during this period.

After a week or so in this immersive experience, though, it’s time for what Zappos calls “The Offer.” The fast-growing company, which works hard to recruit people to join, says to its newest employees: “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you’ve worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus.” Zappos actually bribes its new employees to quit!

Why? Because if you’re willing to take the company up on the offer, you obviously don’t have the sense of commitment they are looking for. It’s hard to describe the level of energy in the Zappos culture—which means, by definition, it’s not for everybody. Zappos wants to learn if there’s a bad fit between what makes the organization tick and what makes individual employees tick—and it’s willing to pay to learn sooner rather than later. (About ten percent of new call-center employees take the money and run.)

Indeed, CEO Tony Hsieh and his colleagues keep raising the size of the quit-now bonus. It started at $100, went to $500, and may well go higher than $1,000 as the company gets bigger (and it becomes even more difficult to maintain the all-important culture and obsession with customers.)

  • Patrick Luczak

    Awesome, counter-intuitive idea!

    I used to require my employees to interview elsewhere as an evaluation criteria on their performance reviews. My belief is that it is important that people know what they’re worth (and get it). It also allows them to make decisions based upon current circumstances and not urban lore.

    The outcome is similar … you end up with people working with you that really want to be there, and not just “trapped souls.”

    Thanks for sharing.

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  • $1000
    for quitting is a relatively good reason, but not for the modern employees.
    Zappos invented a great trick to find out if their new employees are ready to
    get involved into “serious” business. But, for the modern generation of
    employees, it will not work out (of for the next one, probably). The point is,
    today they quit not for money, they quit for freedom. That is an interesting
    point, by the way. Modern generation of employees, according to gallop, have
    reasons to quit job other than just lack of commitment or, simply, money
    issues. The fact that nowadays people realize they have more options and more
    flexibility with employment
    , finally, made it possible for them to make
    reasonable choices, rather than tie to the jobs they hate. So, probably, even
    Zappos will have to invent something new to bribe employees and find out their commitment.
    Let’s see what they can get in 5 years.