Mediocre Efforts and Merit Pay

The opinion-page column "Better Teaching and the Merit Pay 'Myth July 12, exposes the inherent flaw in any so-called merit pay system. Employers and managers should expect the best from all employees. The relationship of tasks that characterizes most employment situations means that everyone's contribution is required to achieve good results.The author's comments concern teaching, but they have equal relevance to the federal government's Civil Service Reform Act, which introduced merit pay to the federal bureaucracy. For more than 10 years, federal managers have shoveled "merit bonuses" to employees whose net efforts have put almost every federal program in distress. We have, for example, a Food and Drug Administration unable to inspect the food that reaches American tables; a financial bureaucracy that has enabled the savings-and-loan crisi s now to be followed by a banking crisis; a Transportation Department that has allowed the deterioration of the highway system, overcrowded airports and countless near misses in the air, and the elimination of intercity bus service; and a health-care system that omits many from receiving basic medical attention. Obviously, the failure of federal programs is not just the fault of civil servants, but their mediocre efforts hardly deserve merit bonuses. The author suggests that everyone should simply do his best. Put an old fashioned way, let's have an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. Phillip H. Miller, Annandale, Va.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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