Until four weeks ago, Rick Curtis—a self-proclaimed “bean counter” at the University of Montana’s Curry Health Center—owned a television with a less than perfect screen. It produced only one color: red. Then, Curtis opened a letter from UM President George Dennison announcing that he was receiving a $1,000 bonus. “I bought a TV,” says Curtis, “and I also broke down and bought a DVD.”
“Oh, I’m cheap. Well, let’s say conservative,” says Curtis.
For the first time in UM history, staff like Curtis—the bean counters, floor sweepers and letter typers—are cashing bonus checks. Kathy Crego, director of UM’s human resources, has cut at least 18 checks between $100 and $1,000. The extra loot is for “exceptional” work “above and beyond” an employee’s usual responsibilities. It is also a small part of the Montana Achievement Plan (MAP), which encourages appropriate compensation for staff and communication between workers and supervisors.
“There’s trials and tribulations, but if [UM employees] can learn to be a good community—that’s the essence of MAP,” says Curtis. “The award is nice, but that’s not the most important thing.”
Altruism aside, though, the money helps. Valerie Crepeau, administrative officer “for lack of a better term,” is using her bonus—about $600 after Uncle Sam dips into it—to transform a home loft into a personal, technology-free quiet room. The bonus covers the items on her shopping list: a rocking chair, a bookcase, a floor rug and a small writing desk.
At a recent meeting of the Montana University System Labor Management Committee, Crego says she was pleased to hear receptivity to MAP. Both labor and management representatives from all campuses are seeing that MAP does allow some flexibility in how staffers are rewarded, Crego says. But she is also ready to improve the process: “We can go back to the bargaining table if need be.”
On the office politics front, the bonuses come at a good time considering the recent raises approved for UM’s upper management. The boost gives the University System’s highest paid employees a pay increase ranging from 4 to 6 percent.