I was doing some work with a field sales force when the manager asked me to look into a puzzling situation. It seems one of his best sales reps would call in sick every now and then, even in the middle of a hot streak. The manager knew the rep wasn’t ill, but he couldn’t figure out what was going on and so he asked me to see if I could find out. It took drinking a lot of beer and playing a lot of pool with the sales crew but one of them finally explained to me what was going on.
“Joe,” the sales rep told me, “is doing what we all do. He’s managing his paycheck.” Puzzled, I asked him to explain further.
“It has to do with the way sick time is paid and the way commissions are paid. Sick time is paid the payday immediately following the sick time taken. Commissions are paid the payday two weeks after the commissions are earned. So, if Joe had a bad week a couple of weeks ago and the lower sales are about to show up as a lower paycheck, he can take a couple of sick days, which are paid on the basis of average commissions, and offset the lower pay from commissions.”
Later, I explained this to the sales manager. I pointed out the different ways in which commissions and sick time were paid and said, “Joe is managing his paycheck, which some would call ‘playing the compensation system’.” He nodded and said, “Not much I can do about that.”
In PCT terms, I knew the sales rep in question was controlling for something, but I didn’t know what. Turns out it was the amount of pay in his paycheck. More specifically, he was controlling for stability in the amount of his paycheck. He could tolerate big swings up but not big swings down.