United Airlines pauses lottery for bonuses after employees rebel online

United Said It'll Give Out $100K Prize. Workers Despise the Idea

"Our intention was to introduce a better, more exciting program", United Airlines president Scott Kirby said in an internal memo Monday.

Three days after saying it would replace quarterly bonuses with a game show-style lottery offering its employees a chance to win cash and prizes, United Airlines (UAL) has rescinded the plan in the face of an employee backlash.

Hundreds of United employees signed a Change.org petition calling for the reinstatement of bonuses - and the airline was skewered for trying to peddle the lottery as a step up in worker compensation when, in reality, it was a cost-saving measure.

According to the Chicago Business Journal, which first broke the news, a lottery bonus system called "core4 Score Rewards" would instead be put in place. Under this system, quarterly drawings would be held with prizes ranging from thousands of dollars in cash to resort packages and luxury cars, the Chicago Business Journal reported. It seems that negative publicity is not leaving United Airlines no matter what they do.

It would have been available only to workers with a ideal attendance record and when the airline met certain performance targets.

However, the new prize program has reportedly enraged United Airlines' employees as it implies that team efforts will not be recognized and only one employee determined by a drawing will receive the $100,000 prize. Other employees stated that the lottery system does not appeal to them and could thus opt out of participating simply by not doing a good job. The bonuses were given to United's 24,000 flight attendants, its pilots and gate agents, and others, she said.

"Awful idea", "insulting", "not cool" were among the reactions from United employees - part of some 500 comments posted to United's employee website that were reviewed by Inc.

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"I can't imagine driving the Mercedes into the employee lot while everyone around me that worked just as hard, or harder got nothing".

Many consumers criticized the move on social media, and both journalists and analysts ridiculed the program.

Based on employee reactions, the program wasn't inspired by United's staff needs and requests. Last year, the company paid out $87m in such rewards.

"Since announcing our planned changes to the quarterly operations incentive program, we have listened carefully to the feedback and concerns you've expressed", Kirby wrote.

Now United says it was a 'misjudgement'.

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.

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