Should we penalize employees for not taking action ?

Michael Haberman is a US-based consultant in HR and he writes one of the best general HR blogs around at Omega HR Solutions.

My regular readers will know that I regularly feature him in my “Share the Knowledge” column, where I highlight the best reads I’ve found in HR, compensation, benefits, performance management, mobility, governance – and HR news in the Middle East and Africa region.

I recently came across his post named Punishing failure vs punishing lack of failure and immediately knew that this one is worthy of standing out and being mentioned on its own.

Michael’s article was triggered by the news that seismologists were recently condemned to jail for failing to predict the risk / probability, and gravity of the earthquake that shook L’Aquila in April 2009 and resulted in 297 deaths, 1,500 injured and 65,000 homeless in this central region of Italy.

His whole column focuses on the fact that these scientists were condemned, not for taking action and failing, but for their lack of taking action (in that case, not warning about the high risk of an imminent earthquake). He translates this situation in the business world and asks what readers think.

The article itself is short but will make you think. The comments are a goldmine, where some of the best bloggers and HR consultants and practitioners chimed in. Paul Hebert, Laura Schroeder, Dan Walter, Jim Brennan, Margaret O’Hanlon, Ann Bares, Kris Dunn, Chuck Ciszmar and Derek Irvine –you will recognize these names as I quote their posts regularly in Share the Knowledge.

They all provided perspective on this reflection of whether our rewards systems should punish failure or focus on failing to act, neither or both. Their answers span a wide range of angles and cover managing risk, culture and open communication, the cost analysis of failure vs not taking action, the role of HR in experimenting with failure, the complexity of measuring failure and addressing risk and reward through appropriate incentive design, hiring the right people for managing risk, leadership and decision-making tied to risk-taking, and how to react in the face of mistakes.

So now, do yourself a favour : to be an even better HR professional, go immediately read the post and its comments, and let me know what you think !


Related posts :

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Sandrine, thank you for the very kind words. I am glad you enjoyed the post. I agree the comments are a virtual gold mine of compensation/reward view points.


  1. […] Should we penalize employees for not taking action ? […]

Speak Your Mind