Peer bonuses

One thing I really liked about Google is its peer bonus system. What other companies have something similar? Laszlo Bock describes Google’s system in his book Work Rules:

The other feature of gThanks is the peer bonus… Giving employees the freedom to recognize one another is important. Many companies allow employees to nominate an employee of the month, and some allow employees to give modest peer bonuses, with approval from HR or management.

At Google, any employee can give anyone else a $175 cash award, with no management oversight or sign-off required. In many organizations, this would be viewed as madness. Wouldn’t employees cut side deals to exchange awards? Wouldn’t they game the system to earn thousands of dollars of extra income?

That hasn’t been our experience.

Over more than a decade, we’ve only rarely seen abuse of the peer bonus system. And when abuse does happen, it’s the Googlers who tend to police it…

We’ve found that trusting people to do the right thing generally results in them doing the right thing…

p. 252, Work Rules (2015), by Laszlo Bock, previously SVP of People Ops at Google.

I was lucky enough receive 59 peer bonuses in my time at Google.

Line chart showing number of peer bonuses per year. The peek was in 2016 with 16 peer bonuses.

(I didn’t receive any in either 2008, not pictured, nor 2020.)

I haven’t used R for a while, but I’m wearing my R shirt today so I thought I’d give it a try again.


d = read.csv("~/Downloads/peer_bonuses.csv")

d$year = as.numeric(str_sub(d$Date, 1, 4))

per_year = d %>% count(year, name="num_peer_bonuses")

(bonuses_plot = ggplot(per_year, aes(year, num_peer_bonuses)) + geom_point() + geom_line())

ggsave("peer_bonuses.png", plot=bonuses_plot, width=800, height=800, units="px")

It feels good to use ggplot2 again (though plotnine is a pretty good copy in Python).

One funny thing: When I originally wrote the above, I used “<-” instead of “=” for assignment; old habits die hard.

The use of “~Downloads” also reminded me of an old exchange I had with Prof. Brian Ripley: [R-SIG-Mac] tilde paths cause crash in R on Mac. He “ripped” me pretty severely on a few occasions (though this one seems milder than I remembered).


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