Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Bonuses to deserving workers

Several weeks ago, in recognition of better-than-expected financial results, we partially repaid our staff who had given up raises and benefits during last year's hard times with a one-time bonus. These thousands of people had made sacrifices last year to save the jobs of their fellow workers and to offer special protection to the lower wage workers in our hospital, sacrifices that received national recognition. (See here and here for examples.)

Now, one gubernatorial candidate is criticizing us for this action. (Full disclosure: I am supporting another candidate.) If this one would have inquired, he could have received a copy of the email that we sent out to several thousand of our people. Perhaps, then, he would not have been so critical.

Here's the email, dated September 8. Following the email, I present representative responses from several of the staff members. You be the judge.


Last year, in a terrific outpouring of mutual support, thousands of you gave up salary increases and benefits to help save the jobs of hundreds of people and to offer special protection to people in our lower wage categories. This action received national acclaim, as the country recognized the sense of community and family here at our hospital.

Over the past several months, as our finances improved, I followed your collective guidance, gradually restoring salary increases, 401(k) matches, and earned time accruals. Back in July, we discussed things with our Board of Directors, and they agreed that, if finances allowed, we should do something more to help make up for some of what was taken away from you.

Things have worked out along those lines, so I am now pleased to send you this note. As a result of very tight expense management and strong patient volumes, we are running ahead of our expected budget for this fiscal year, which ends September 30. Just as we shared the sacrifices last year, we want to share with you this year’s strong financial performance. To thank you for your past sacrifices and to make up a small portion of them, we will be distributing a special one-time bonus to you.

Here's how it will work. The bonus for full-time staff working 30 or more hours per week will be $500; for part-time staff working 20 to 29 hours per week, it will be $250; and for those working 8 to 19 hours per week, it will be $150. To be eligible, since this is meant to thank those who sacrificed last year, you need to have been working here since January 1. This bonus does not apply to students, temporary employees, employees on leaves of absence, or employees who are not in good standing. Like all income, the bonus is taxable, so taxes will be withheld.

The bonus will show up in your paycheck on September 23 (but only if you are still working here on that day.) You don't need to do anything special to make this happen. You have already done something special.

That’s the good news. We work in fiscal years here, so the results from one twelve-month period do not necessarily give a signal as to what will happen in the next year. The bad news is that we expect FY 2011 to be particularly hard financially for all hospitals, including BIDMC. Given what we already know about planned cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, we cannot plan on our strong results from this year to continue next year. Meanwhile our costs (everything from clinical supplies to food to parking to health insurance) will increase. We will all have to continue to manage through those realities.

But for today, we simply want to recognize that our financial results this year are better than we had planned, and to share that with you.

With my thanks, that of all of the Vice Presidents in our senior management team, and of our Board of Directors,



Thank you so much Paul! It is nice to know our sacrifices were not taken for granted. Thank you again for your kindness!

My husband lost his job almost 2 years ago...Every little bit helps...Thanks...

Thank you so very much Paul! It is so needed by so many at this time, it will be greatly appreciated by many I am sure. Your outstanding generosity with the help and guidance of the board is very charitable and will not be forgotten.

Thank you very much. You have no idea how much this helps me.

Thank you so much, Mr. Levy and Board of Directors. A very nice surprise.

Thank you very much Paul…what a wonderful gesture. It is a privilege to work at this great organization!!! I'm so glad that we were able to get through some rough times.

You can not imagine what this email did for the moral of our staff in radiology @ Lexington and Chelsea. We appreciate all that you have done to salvage jobs, while keeping constant communication. Thank you again.

This is very generous and thoughtful. I appreciate it and I know so many others will. Everyone can certainly use a little extra cash these days.

Management and staff of Mail & Motor Services would like to say thank you to all involved, Much appreciated.

Thank you for making my day & reminding why BIDMC is a great place to work!

Thank you for this wonderful email, you just made my daughter's day as well. Now she can enroll in Driver's Ed.

WOW!!! I have a daughter at Brandeis, this will help pay for her books...

I cannot tell you how much this seemingly benign gesture means to me. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Given that me and my paycheck just started at BC yesterday (omg, what was I thinking.....), this is greatly appreciated.


Anonymous said...


I am a hospital finance executive. You did the right thing and your employees should be proud. Shame on those who criticize this action!

cyndi said...

And so when you have surgery or need medical health care, our medical team will provide you pain med to dull the hurt, and we give you amnesia anesthesia so you forget the bad time. That being said, when we saved all the employees jobs, there was no pain med required, cuz the hurt did not go deep for just one person. We all took a small hit and it didn't hurt so much. Then when you saw the faces of those people working because their job was saved, we could remember their smile and not have to forget them. We all felt good, we all worked hard, we all felt pride and loyalty to a team we loved to play for. No one left the medical center . We all got to stay. I liken our loyalty and pride to that of a recently honored retiring Red Sox player. MIKE LOWELL! Mike took a home town discount contract a few years back, he worked hard with loyalty and pride....and guess what? Mike was also rewarded with a bonus. The Boston Red Sox surprised him with a bonus for his charitable foundation he designed to help those less fortunate. As the check was presented the Red Sox front office proclaimed loudly and said so publicly and proudly "Nice guys do finish first"
The employees of the Beth Israel Deaconess are the nice guys who help the less fortunate, we work with loyalty and pride and we were also surprised and rewarded. (however not as much as Mikey) Our front office also believes nice guys finish first and they are so right and we have no idea where we would be without them.. And I hope if the day ever comes that the candidate finds himself with a health need he comes to us, we will take away his pain, and blur the bad memories, and we will smile as we care for him. We will not perform these caring curing practices because we got a bonus, but because we always do the right thing. We sleep well at night because we are nice, and nice matters! It is real nice to be important , but so much more important to be nice.
Life is not about the breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away.....and this is one heck of a moment.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Cyndi. All Mr. Cahill has to do is read your comment, then watch the 2009 NBC video - then he should slink away in shame.

nonlocal MD

Curbside said...

It's nice to hear about an organization giving back when there is an excess. You often only hear the stories of cut backs.

Dhaya said...

From Facebook:

Well done! We don't receive enough positive feedback and across sectors managers have to explain why workers have to work harder for no raise or promotion. Being rewarded in this way not only helps the pocketbook but it also shows in a very specific way the hospital values its staff. If we want people to stay for the long haul, we must demonstrate we care about their future. Thanks for not being another CEO who reads off a script about tough economic times!

Erica said...

I am just so amazed by what you do and the establishment that BIDMC is. I am a graduate from Northeastern University and did a co-op at BI from January to June of 2008 (Endocrine research). Later, in January of 2009, I was lucky enough to get my last semester placement in the clinical labs at BI for 4 months (I have a degree in medical laboratory science).

I was there during the time that BI announced plans to cut costs and the best way to do it. I went to some of your town hall meetings and read the posts on the discussion board and one again, was amazed to see that you responded to almost every one. Everyone was. I had never heard or seen such a thing done by a top executive of any company. The degree of openness, willingness and transparency is really special.

Anyway, I am now in medical school (a decision that working at BI helped make) and instead of studying pathology and neuroscience, I am reminiscing about the fond memories and influencing experiences I received at BI. I can only hope that when my schooling and training is complete, I will have the honor and opportunity to be a part of the BIDMC family once again.

Gargi said...

From Facebook:

My husband while a medicine resident at BIDMC,a couple of years ago had got a similar bonus back then.I know how much this means.I did not get a chance or rather missed a chance of saying thank you back then.I wholeheartedly thank Mr.Levy and the Board of Directors. I pray and hope that we come back to BIDMC in future and work there.

Christine said...

From a note sent to the candidate:

I am a nurse at BIDMC. Am appalled by your public comments about the bonuses given to the nurses at BIDMC or as you refer to me as the “rank and file workers”. Our Board of Directors and CEO recognized the sacrifices the nursing staff and other “rank and file workers” made to avert layoffs during the dark days of 2008-09 at the medical center.

Are you aware that the “rank and file workers” were approached by leadership to save jobs? We were polled by our CEO and we agreed to voluntarily forgo pay raises, everyone agreed to give back vacation time and discontinue our savings plan to SAVE jobs at our hospital. We also agreed to give our lowest paid workers their annual raise to assist our fellow “rank and file workers”.

At BIDMC we are family.

Anonymous said...

This politician needs to apologize. Does he not know how hard we ALL work? We are not the reason this whole financial crisis in America started. We get a small token (well appreciated token) to thank us for the sacrifices we made...losing many of our benefits for a year and he thinks he can weigh in on how BIDMC spends it's money for being a responisble institution. What about the HUGE bonuses CEO's of the banks that failed us are getting? As a hospital, BIDMC showed that WE CARE about each other and our patients and this is the thanks we get? He should publicly apologize for not knowing the facts nor the emotions behind our bonus!

marciab said...

An institution is defined by its people and their leaders. The more I read, and hear about the BIDMC "family", the more impressed I become. You and your staff should be commended for the decisions made last year, and the sacrifices that ensued this fiscal year. BIDMC is leading the way as caretakers by first taking care of their own community. I imagine this spills over into the care given patients. Bravo to all.

Unknown said...

As one who willingly gave up salary, retirment contribution and earned time to save the jobs of others, it felt right that when we had a good financial period, we shared in the financial gain. Thank you.....
Jane M

Martha said...

From Facebook:

I have always said that this is the best place to work in Boston! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

If healthcare costs are the issue, why then are healthcare costs not the topic for discussion. Why not go after the small business who pay a penalty for not offering insurance. Surely they add to the cost of funding the safety net via uninsured patients.

As one of the lower cost providers in the area, BI has done a fantastic job of running (pardon the pun!!!) lean. In doing so, several sacrifices were made, and now you, Mr. Levy, and the Board, are making the staff who made the sacrifices whole.

This, clearly, has little to do with the cost of healthcare and everything to do with a misrepresentation of a tremendous success story!

Anonymous said...

I'm a BIDMC employee and I recently had my annual review. Although it was an outstanding review I was told the best the hospital could do this year was a 2% raise across the board. I realize that it's not a great time to make a gripe about any sort of salary raise. - However at the same time the hospital shouldn't tout that it's giving it's employees a bonus when in fact it realy just factors in as the old 3% raises employees got in the past.

That being said: I enjoy my job at BIDMC and wouldn't want to work anywhere else. I think the "bonus" was a good jesture no matter how you look at it. These are tough times and I am grateful for a job.

Keith said...

Well done sir!

By the way; did you get 500 dollars to add to your 1 mil plus salary? That would compensate you for ~1 hour of your valuable time assuming a normal 40 hour work week.

Nice of you to dole out the crumbs while whallowing in the pig trough.

Anonymous said...

My salary is not $1 million plus, but I guess you don't really care about that. You have often made comments about hospital CEO salaries, but this is the first time I can recall your being so personally nasty about it. I have been very up front about how my is set. (See here: http://runningahospital.blogspot.com/2007/01/do-i-get-paid-too-much.html).
I don't set it, and it is comparable to others in the industry. If your point is that you think is too high, you have now made your point, here and several times before.

If your point is that whatever I get paid diminishes the fact that we authorized over $3 million in bonuses, I don't see that it does.

Stop smoking help said...

I believe employees want 4 things: 1) security 2) salary 3) recognition 4) sense of belonging

It looks like you strive to incorporate these items in your hospital mission. Employees will be fiercly loyal when they are treated with respect and allowed to take "ownership" in the direction of the company. I don't have an MBA, but I would guess the professors would give you an A, even if the politicos don't.

Anonymous said...

Keith for the love of God get over how much money Paul makes already, will you?

Anonymous said...


I have not posted the next comment you submitted because it just goes on and on about the same theme, including ad hominem statements about our volunteer board members. Feel free to pursue it elsewhere.

Richard said...


It has been said, nonetheless - Kudos to you and the board. Some would say - not an easy decision - in fact I suspect on several levels that this was in fact quite easy - give back to those that give so much.

lynnie said...

Hi Paul, The Employees at BIDMC are respected,empowered and are treated as full partners in the assuring that patients receive the safest, most timely and equitable care possible.this is something to feel proud of... When employees are treated as equals patients are as well!
If more hospitals functioned this way the health care cost conversation would be moot.

Alexandra Drane said...

Best part of the email: "You don't have to do anything special to make this happen. You have already done something special." As someone who has the great honor of working at least peripherally with the unbelievable BIDMC family - let me second that emotion. Starting with you, Paul. You have already done - and continue to do - amazingly special things. Thank you for proving that transparency has many benefits - not just the traditional ones many of us in the healthcare space push for...it brings the benefit of creating trust, of igniting a shared mission - one that really matters, and helps to reinforce the important but still nascent belief in our space that authenticity genuinely matters. Thank you for that. And to the rest of the BIDMC team working tirelessly to get good honest care out there for the benefit of the community? What could be more special than that. Thank you for so graciously being willing to give when so many were focused solely on themselves - it's an honor to work with you.