Paycheck No April Fools Joke (guest blogger Joe Goodman)

Before we go to Joe’s guest blog, let me refer you to fellow blogger Stephen Hicks’ blog for today.  Read it.  Now.  If there were ever an eerie connection between fiction and reality, this is it.

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Today, I have asked the Honorable Terry Noel to pinch hit with his daily blog. Of course I ingratiated with the “honorable” component. It’s how one wins his way. If you are reading this today on Common Sense, then we know it worked and Terry can be persuaded with simple praises. Please note this for future inquiries that may benefit yourself. Oh, I digress.

I really wanted to write today, not as an April Fool’s joke, but more of I told you so. You see, yesterday was an early April Fools, or so they thought, on thousand of Illinois employees. Below is a one-sided conversation I had the good fortune to eavesdrop.

“Yes Ma’am, your paycheck was less this month. No, Ma’am it is not in error. No Ma’am, I cannot instruct the State of Illinois that they have erred in raising your personal income tax 66%. No Ma’am, I cannot accept a letter from you explaining why you do not want to pay the increase…Ma’am, you have the option to change your number of dependents. I do caution that you will most likely need to pay at the end of the year. No, I’m sorry…Again, I’m sorry that I cannot help with this concern.   Ma’am?”

She ended the call. What happened, I inquired.

“That’s the third call today.”

About? I asked.

“The Illinois Tax Increase. Each employee doesn’t understand how they earned a 3% raise but are taking home less than last year. Apparently, I’m the State’s spokesman. Boy, I’m loving my job this year.”

We carried on with our business, but his frustration reminded me of a 1980’s research study.

Worker’s Compensation insurance rates were excessive for an open pit mining company. The organization investigated and opted for a positive reinforcement behavioral change experiment. The firm noted many unwarranted and/or superficial visits with the site’s field nurse. Each visit was then recorded on that ever important OSHA Form 300. Form 300 is filed annually and it is only natural that insurers base rates upon the number of reported incidents corresponding to the specific occupation. As the job’s danger increases, so does the insurance rate. Coupled with increased injuries– ah, you see where this is going. Thus, the organization sought to decrease the number of unnecessary nurse visits. The firm employed an ABA research design. For the non-nerd, unlike me, an ABA research design centers upon establishing a behavior baseline, introducing some manipulation, and evaluating the change in behavior. The behavior manipulation used: the employee would receive local store vouchers for every pay period the employee did not visit the field nurse. It worked, and it worked excellently. Field nurse visits decreased significantly.

What happened next was further verification of success. The personnel administrator inadvertently failed to place vouchers in paychecks. That day, the telephone calls could be timed with the mail delivery trucks. Spouses angrily telephoned the personnel office demanding to know exactly when their husband was injured at work. Examples included families intending to use this particular week’s vouchers for that new refrigerator.  The administrator used the remainder of the day apologizing for the error and substituting as a part-time marriage counselor.  Office personnel abandoned their daily activities to hand deliver an apology and voucher.


The point, we pay great attention to our paychecks. It appears that Illinois resident’s have chosen a spouse being less than honest. Maybe, just maybe, the electorate will pay attention and reverse the State’s addiction. I do pity my friend. He’s a great Human Resource Manager. I am almost positive he has not received any couples training for disgruntled State Residents. I would suggest that he send the State a bill. However with $13 billion in debts, I doubt he would receive payment.

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Joe Goodman can be found pontificating the lecture halls at Illinois State University. He received his PhD in Human Resource Management and Organizational Behavior from the University of Mississippi. He is a certified Senior Human Resource Professional and can be reached by email at joseph.goodman@ilstu.edu.

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It is not true that ingratiation is the best way to persuade Terry.  Cash works even better.  He confesses that it was the “Honorable” part that got him.  Right now he is looking at himself in the mirror to confirm.

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About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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