HR · Startups

How do startups penalize (or compensate) collaborators in order to fulfill deadlines or schedules?

Ignacio Juarez CEO & Founder @ TRATO | Ofrecemos Tecnología para la Gestión de Contratos con Firma Electrónica Avanzada |

March 28th, 2016

When you are a startup, you want to hire the best people to do the job. But even if the people you hire are committed, reaching goals is always a big challenge. When a collaborator tells you that they will deliver X task in a certain day, and they don't, what do you do? Do you penalize that person? On the other hand, what happens when they never arrive to the office on time or, in case they work from home, they are not available at the agreed hour? Is this a reason to penalize? How can you assure that collaborators fulfill their obligations within the company. Or is it only a matter of motivation?

Joe Albano, PhD Using the business of entrepreneurialism to turn ideas into products and products into sustainable businesses.

March 28th, 2016

First you may want to look at your own attitudes about work. I've noticed that your "default mode" seems to be "how do I punish people when they don't do what I want, when I want" - this can quickly breed a culture of malicious compliance which will be difficult to displace. 

Second, what is the nature of your relationship with theses individuals. Are they coworkers, cofounders, contactors, advisors, etc.? Take the time to establish clear expectations and common goals. You mentioned goals and priorities - make sure they are as aligned as possible. Also, spend some time talking about what will happen when expectations are not met, and focus on getting back on track, not fixing fault - it's a concept we call "accountability without blame" in my practice. 

Finally, as a startup recognize that you (probably) have limited and finite resources. I see a lot of advice on FD that boils down to "hire the best people, pay them the best wages, and replace them as soon as they step out of line even a little" -- that advice reminds me of Steve Martin's advice on How to be a Millionaire: "Step 1: Go out and get a million dollars". You may be working with people who have "day jobs" -- for them the priority may be to keep the job that is paying the mortgage ... can you find/afford someone else? if not, how will you work with that? (hint: there is no one-size-fits-all solution) 


March 28th, 2016

 For the startup company, you need to establish the policy and employee handbook; the new hire should get train or orientation. A few training programs can follow the company need, such as job training, staffing training, sexual harassment, safety training and so on. You can add performance review program or incentive program later. VivianVCing Consutling Service.

Ema Chuku Product Developer. Founder.

March 28th, 2016

Why don't you spend time with this collaborator and discuss why your expectations are not being met rather than focusing on how to punish or penalise one. Hint: you use the word "collaborator".. So learn to collaborate and not control ..
Your attitude needs to change and embrace a startup culture.  If this person is really lacklustre, then replace him/her. Penalising won't solve anything.

Theresa Marcroft Marketing Strategist / CMO / Interim VP Marketing

March 28th, 2016

Hello Ignacio, two suggestions to successfully meet your company's short term needs:
1. You don't want someone looking for a career if your need is short term, or someone looking for project work if your need is long term.  Rather than hiring numerous employees, you might first divide the work up that way; short and long term needs so you can fill appropriately.   Hire employees & contractors who have the expertise and reputation for delivering great results in that scenario.  (For example, my business is interim vp marketing work and that's what my CEO's get).
2. You can tie compensation to work-product milestones.
Divide up the job in project modules and pay per module completed.  For contactors, that's the pay arrangement. For employees, it could be a generous bonus structure. Esp for contractors, you should not have to worry about where they are working (remote or on site) or what hours they are working but you surely should expect them to show up on time for meetings. That said, focus on getting agreement on the tasks at hand, be sure your collaborator understands exactly what s/he's signing up for, and then standby to answer questions and remove obstacles, and they should be able to deliver.
Theresa Marcroft

Nevine Gulamhusein Consultant, HR Resource Management Support at The World Bank

March 28th, 2016

Hi Ignacio, By punishing the task incumbent will not achieve very much especially if you are trying to realize results. However, if you would have kept abreast of the activities leading to the completion of that task, any issues woulkd have been addressed and the task completed as required. I do agree with Jo Albano, your attitude and approach needs to change - these employees are your partners in all sincerity and they need to be respected equally for their contribution. All of you form the team that drives the project at hand but you as the lead has to take the responsibility of any let down. Sorry to burst your bubble. All the very best, Nevine Gulamhusein-Rahemtulla, M.B.A, PhD

Chaim Sajnovsky owner at

March 28th, 2016

You will always have to deal with people. And people have issues. Period. Have you heard about HR divisions? they exists in order to deal with people issues. Instead of thinking in punishing (I guess you need to pushing someone by now) I'd go for motivating the people to give his best. This is not as simple as it sounds to be honest. But, the ideal situation is when you hire people you know they work reasonably ok. Money cannot buy love . Working with the right people and  making work interesting can buy at least peace of mind..

Eva Sander Crowdsourceress and CEO at Serlavox A.C.

March 28th, 2016

This book might help you:

Rob G

March 28th, 2016

leadership is not easy, OK, it's really, really hard.  And it's something you are not likely to learn in school (unless you play team sports).  It's not something you learn over night and it's one of those muscles best built on someone else's dime.  I realize you can't turn back the clock, but leading a team is one of those skills that takes time, advice, trial and error.  Finding a good boss who can emulate good leadership is also hard.  When you find one, pay attention.  Getting this experience while working at an established company is always cheaper.  Since that doesn't appear to be an option now, i'd recommend first finding a mentor or a cofounder who has experience and success managing the type of people (developers, sales people, marketers, etc.) you have currently on your team so you have a second opinion.  You are not likely to change your own natural 'style' so look for a mentor/cofounder/coach with a compatible style.  I happen to think that coaches of amateur sports are often in a similar spot to startup founders - the team members are there for reasons other than money.  They can't help you with tools to manage developers, but they can help teach you how to pull a bunch of individuals together for a common goal.  The next thing i would do (best done in the interview/dating stage),  is find out what motivates each team member.  People are different so don't assume that one approach fits all.  Also understand that culture can have a significant impact if you have people from different countries/cultures on your team.  Get to know them, talk to former colleagues, talk to their spouses, friends, siblings, etc.   Lead from the front so everyone can 'see' you: set the example, set clear expectations and follow through on your own commitments, be organized, be direct, empathize, understand the other pressures and obligations they have outside of work... and the list goes on.  Learning when and how to reward and punish just takes time and varies from person to person.  Oh, and if you don't have kids, talk to your parents and grandparents about how they motivated you... you might learn a few things about yourself.  

mario chaves CEO & co-Founder, Avantica Technologies

March 28th, 2016

I'm with Joe Albano on this one. If from the start, you're thinking about what the punishment should be in case of failure, you're starting out with the wrong foot and the wrong mindset. As Elon Musk, Steve Jobs and many other great visionary leaders have demonstrated, people will do the "impossible" when properly motivated and committed to the task at hand. Without commitment from the employee and the proper motivation from the company, the chance of getting the desired results is minimal. If the motivation you offer is to avoid being punished, your results will leave a lot to be desired. That being said, absolutely track your path/progress towards the goal and make adjustments and tough decisions as necessary, including firing someone who's not showing up on time and whose performance is not up to par. Getting other people to do what we want/need is really hard but it's the only way to get things done, unless doing everything yourself is a viable alternative.

AainaA-Ridtz A.R Fondatrice et Rédactrice en Chef | EU +41225180501 | NY +19174754944

March 29th, 2016

Bonjour Ignacio

I think even if you're coming from the prison perspective, punishment is not the ideal treatment to convalesce a tribe, or a wrong-doer. But that's beside the point.

In a startup, especially so in a collaborative startup, the idea of "punishing" adults (or children) for not delivering a certain project on time is uncalled for. What do you understand by collaboration? Working towards a common/mutual goal for the benefit of all? 

There's no such idealogy of control in a collaboration, yes, there are responsibilities, but not in the way you might 'perceive' as a pre-requisite for dealing with humans. You control robots, not humans. 

The C-suite or person who is in charge of the timeline, and the product ought be responsible for the 'failure' to produce. Its best to discuss with the product manager and work out a way to fine tune his or her timetable. Do not forget to advise him on the contigency time-span for such a product to roll off the conveyor belt, if such a case ensue.

Each person in a professional collaboration has his. or her responsibility to assume to.