A lesson from the book of Job

Just to prove that good management practice knows no boundaries these days, the Vatican has announced that it's going to introduce corporate-style bounces and incentives for its staff. To quote Corinthians, God loves a cheerful giver...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The Vatican, one of the world’s smallest states, employs about 4,000 people – from gardeners all the way through to archbishops. Staff already receive bonuses on special occasions – such as the election of a new pope – but this will be the first use of performance-related pay. From January, the top performers will become eligible for bonus payments of up to 10% of their salary, as a reward for notable ‘dedication, professionalism, productivity and correctitude’.

‘Meritocracy has breached the Vatican walls’ proclaimed Il Messaggero, a Roman daily newspaper. Apparently the new set-up has already been agreed with the ADLV, the nearest thing to a trade union within the city.

Of course, bringing in a familiar corporate solution will also leave the Vatican with a familiar corporate problem – how to balance the books. If it’s going to start paying out more money to staff, it may have to cut down on some of its other spending.

While we’re all for meritocracy, we just hope that the Vatican isn’t opening a can of worms here. Greed, of course, is one of the seven deadly sins. And according to a new study by Science magazine this week, analysis of brain activity shows that male employees are happiest when they’re being paid more than their fellow workers. By singling out some staff for special rewards and fostering competition, could it be that the Vatican is throwing an apple of discord into its sedate ranks?

Either way we hope that the Vatican employees heed the wise words of Matthew: ‘No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.’

It’s a lesson that should play better at the Vatican than it would in the City at bonus time...

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