We finally had a weekend where the temperature was moderate and rain wasn’t pouring down. Daniel and I dragged the lawnmower out of hibernation. We cleaned it up and filled it with gas. With a clearing of the throat and a sneeze of blue smoke, it roared into life on the first hard yank of the pull cord. I mowed around the edges of the yard and did the precision mowing around the bushes and trees. Daniel did a lot of the straight back-and-forth cutting. For the first time, I think Daniel did at least half of the lawn. I thought about offering him a job.
I was leery of just paying Daniel some set amount to do the whole thing. We have a good sized yard and I’m not sure if he’s up to mowing it all yet. At the same time, I didn’t want him to get used to only mowing a small part of it because a fraction of the total payment was “good enough” for his needs. Like a lot of employers, I felt I had to come up with a way to motivate Daniel to go from what I expected to what I wanted. I sat down at the kitchen table and started figuring out a “compensation package”. After half an hour or so, I came up with a plan I felt would get Daniel to do what I wanted, but if he couldn’t do it all (or didn’t want to do it all), at least he’d get something for helping.
First, he would be paid by the row. This would be his base wage. I really wanted him to help me with the whole lawn. I proposed splitting the yard into four areas: the front, the back and the two sides. He’d get an additional payment for each area he mowed with plus a “bonus” payment if he helped with all four. Finally, I had an additional bonus if he managed to mow the entire yard by himself. I added up all the rows and section bonuses to come up with this last payment.
The idea is he would get paid a small amount to help me here and there. If he stuck around to help me with the whole lawn, he’d earn enough money to buy something at the store. Once he took on most of the lawn, he’d make enough to buy a few Hot Wheels cars every week, but – ultimately – he’d be motivated to go that extra mile and do the whole yard. However, as I started writing all the rules down it occurred to me Daniel would probably be more confused than motivated. I have that problem myself with our bonus plan at work. And as I tried to figure out how I was going to track and enforce everything, I came to the conclusion it would be far easier on me to keep mowing the lawn myself and paying Daniel “under the table” for his assistance with the occasional trip to McDonald’s for ice cream.