Could it be that we are designing and communicating incentives for our highest performance all wrong? A recent study titled “Reappraisal of incentives ameliorates choking under pressure and is correlated with changes in the neural representations of incentives” appears to show that the fear of losing a reward allows people to perform at the edge better than the desire for earning more award.

Career progression has historically focused on providing growth for individual contributors and managers. Both roles are essential and pay for one path relative to the other can reflect this. Earning potential is linked to the skills and talents of the individual, their performance, the performance of the department in which they work, or the company as a whole.

Is it too odd to work? It’s too early to tell if the program will have a lasting impact on talent acquisition, staff performance or long-term retention. Different has worked well for many companies in the past. It has also failed spectacularly many times. But, fear of the unknown has not scared employees away from work for tons of companies who are at the leading edge of their industry.

As we fly through another holiday season let’s take a look at some of the stockings hanging on the executive compensation mantle. This is the time of year for gifts and coal. Some are based on lists and requirements, others are a tad bit more…discretionary. In the end, like every year, most get something nice, some get more than they deserve, and others finally get a reminder that being bad has a cost.

Pay has been in the news so often lately, it can be hard to choose a topic to write about. But on November 12, 2018, I read an article titled Setting a maximum wage for CEOs would be good for everyone.” The author was Mark Reiff, a person with an impressive academic resume who asks if setting a maximum wage could “be the long-awaited solution to economic inequality?”

I’m not going to bury the lead. The answer is no. No, a maximum wage is not a solution to economic inequality. In fact, it isn’t a solution for anything

I began my compensation career in 1994. People still typed things (on typewriters). Email was a new thing used by only a limited few. Equity compensation was the wild west. It cost companies nothing. It was used as liberally as salt at a corner burger joint. Few companies knew all the rules and fewer followed them. Gains were expected and repricings were performed without much thought. Importantly, equity was used to fill sometimes massive gaps between cash compensation expectations and cash compensation realities. Stock options were a secret weapon of startups and IPOs to asymmetrically compete for talent against the tech titans and other big companies of the day.