United Airlines holds off on lottery bonus

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The new program rolled out by United Airlines attempted to replace the quarterly performance bonus with a lottery; according to the leaked memo, airline employees who met certain performance metrics would be entered into a lottery system whereby winners were to be selected by a random draw every three months. With this move, there's no doubt management has succeeded in achieving a united voice with all employees, but that voice is entirely opposed to and offended by this new "select" bonus program.

The dust-up over the bonus lottery showed that United is struggling to overcome a legacy of poor labor relations since its 2010 merger with Continental Airlines. Laurie Vesalo, who is a flight attendant at United Airlines wrote a petition titled "Make United Airlines Great Again", which outlined the various complaints of the employees. Earlier, the union had said that employees were "entirely opposed to and offended by this new "select' bonus program". The bonuses were given to United's 24,000 flight attendants, its pilots and gate agents, and others, she said.

"I can't imagine driving the Mercedes into the employee lot while everyone around me that worked just as hard, or harder got nothing". "While we were surprised by some of the components of the program, there is no part of the reaction by flight attendants and other employees that surprises us".

"When no one "qualifies" because they called out sick due to the most bad flu in years, or sick children, or life ... the company just makes more money for itself", she wrote.

The carrier employs about 88,000 people around the world.

Although, the quarterly bonus is separate from the airline's profit-sharing payouts, according to Inc.com, the news seems particularly jarring after Southwest Airlines and American Airlines announced in January that employees will receive a $1,000 bonus, thanks to projected savings from the new tax bill. Last year, the company paid out $87m in such rewards. "We are pressing the pause button", he wrote.

Yesterday, United President Scott Kirby told workers that the company was "pressing the pause button" on the lottery, and taking time to "review feedback". We will be reaching out to workgroups across the company and the changes we make will better reflect your feedback.

Deb Garbor, chief executive of Sol Marketing, says United executives "clearly didn't think through their how employees might react, and they didn't hold their own corporate culture in high regard".

Though internal programs should support your organization's mission statement, vision and goals, this crisis can stand as a lesson for communicators to consider employee needs when implementing a program-not just numbers.