Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

It's been a week of give and take at United Airlines.

United "decided" to take most of its employees' bonuses away and in return the employees gave their bosses quite some criticism.

The airline has paused the scheme.

It replaced an attendance and performance bonus given to many employees every quarter with a chance for only a few employees to win "big" prizes, such as $100,000 or a Mercedes C-Class car. 

Amateur mathematicians took one look and worked out that the airline could save $40 million or more.

Professional airline employees took one look and realized that most of them wouldn't now be getting a bonus.

Today, the airline's CEO, Oscar Muñoz, was asked about this little debacle.

As the Chicago Tribune reports, he said the airline was "trying to spice up the process a little bit."

Spices tend to get stirred into a meal. It's not as if you pull the meal away and just serve a black pepper, oregano and cumin done three ways.

One way of spicing the bonus up might have been to have the lottery on top of the regular bonuses, in order to recognize employees who had performed exceptionally.

Instead, it's hard to see how taking most people's bonuses away offered anything other than rancid basil as a spice.

In what kitchen could experienced leaders have believed that this might be just the sort of peppering that would put a spring in the step of your friendly Flight Attendant?

And if you're going to spice things up a bit, you surely expect the person you're spicing things up for to be delirious with excitement.

Is this what Muñoz himself really thought?

He did admit today: "Obviously, people didn't care for it, and we'll try again. We'll be working over the next couple weeks to make sure we get input from people at all levels."

To ask what sort of spices they like? And how much they're prepared to pay for those spices, perhaps.

It seemed clear to anyone who observed this plan that one of its ingredients was saving the airline money.

This still leaves a painful question left unanswered, though I have asked it of the airline.

Was there any consultation with any employees before this decision was made? 

Supplementary: If not, why not?

Some United employees I've talked to have told me that Muñoz is seen as the one true spirit at the top, while Kirby was described to me by one Flight Attendant as akin to Tom Cruise.

"You know, he drank the Scientology Kool-Aid and wants everyone to know how awesome it is. So he talks about in an intense and deranged fashion. Not sure what flavor of Kool-Aid Kirby is drinking, but he's got that same vibe," said the Flight Attendant.

Imagine now, though, what the consultations with employees might be like.

They will be suspicious, while the management will want, presumably, to turn up the seasoning a little more.

I wonder what this meal will taste like when it's done.

Published on: Mar 8, 2018