Pay to Quit. Pay to Stay. Or Just Pay Me to Work For An Awesome Boss.

Jeff Bezos, Founder & CEO of Amazon, boldly announced he was cloning the Zappos practice of offering employees money to leave.  He outlined the program in his annual letter to shareholders indicating,

“The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want.  In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”

His “Pay to Quit” program feels slightly different from Tony Hsieh’s “The Offer” as Amazon is targeting their fulfillment center (likely primarily non-exempt employees) and after an extended period of employment.  The max payout is $5,000.

Some have said this is a grand performance review of the company.  Every year the organization and employee engagement at Amazon can be judged based on how many take Bezos up on the payout and hit the road.

It actually feels more like a direct report review of their boss.  Come on.  It’s only $5000 and I doubt they gross it up for taxes.  So let’s say you take home $4500—or $173 buck—a pay period.  Sure, that’s a decent date night 26 times a year, but is it worth LEAVING YOUR JOB?!

No.  Cause you don’t leave your job, you leave  your boss.  If you really loved your boss, your significant other would understand why you only have 10 date nights a year vs. 26.  In fact, your significant other would love you more BECA– USE YOU HAVE A JOB.

Now, I agree with the rationale that it’s not good for either party when an unhappy employee sticks around.  We all know too many people who quit, but don’t leave.  That blows.  We also know companies pay smart people stupid amounts of money to leave all the time, usually under the guise of a RIF.  How many of you have had talented people beg to be put on “the list?!”

<Insert pic of me jumping up and down raising my hand>

I will applaud Amazon IF after the first few rounds of employees walking out with cash they put some analysis into who those folks worked for. If there are trends it would be really cool for Jeff to write about them in his next shareholder letter.  It will be even cooler if they shift their focus off of non-exempt employees to those exempt ones who are perhaps the root cause of unhappiness.

Instead of paying people to quit, or paying them more money to stay—what if we hired, developed and nurtured more adept bosses of people?

Perhaps that wouldn’t make headlines on SHRM or other media outlets, but it sure would make a heck of a lot of sense.

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Kathy Rapp
Kathy Rapp is the President of hrQ, where she helps companies find groovy HR Talent or HR Consultants to drive business results.  Prior to joining hrQ, Kathy booked more than 15 years of human resources leadership experience working for such companies as Morgan Stanley and First Data Corporation.  A connoisseur of the intersection between pop culture and business, Kathy believes many talent issues can be addressed via the succession planning lessons experienced by Van Halen  (David Lee/Sammy and sadly, Gary Cherone).


  1. Awesome. Spot on! While there will be people who leave for other reasons, the Pareto Principle applies here I would imagine. I know studies show the vast majority of people quit their job because of their boss. I forget the statistics, if there are reliable ones, but it seems reasonable that 80% or more of people leave because of their boss. Leaving for $5,000 or less, especially in this horrible jobs market, screams of someone being fed up with their boss. Serious cash should be invested in analyzing the boss’ who have an attrition rate one standard deviation above the average.

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