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It's hard to recall the use of "Scheme" without it meaning something tricky or meant to deceive. I'll bet the choice was intended to convey "Crafty" in the "no one else has thought of something so clever" sense, but it backfired. Sometimes it's better not to be self-congratulatory when naming your ideas, eh?

Now, "Shenanigan" is a word I'd like to see used more often when naming Plans, Programs, and Policies!


I like it. Base salary shenanigans. Sales commission shenanigans. Special recognition shenanigans. Yes.

The word "scheme" is synonymous with "plan" in England. While (er, Whilst) working there, I communicated many pension schemes, incentive schemes, SAYE (Save As Your Earn) schemes, and even car schemes.

Yes, the word has completely different connotations here in the U.S. But calling a plan a scheme is fine on the side of the pond where the language was invented!

I agree with Dave. The word scheme doesn't carry those negative connotations on this side of the pond. In fact I'd be far more likely to use it than plan, system or program - or even programme!!! ;-)

However I do like the idea of base salary shenanigans but would suggest special recognition gimmick might be the more appropriate title for that scheme.

Ah, once again it seems we have "two countries separated by a common language." For me, on the US side of the pond, "scheme" has the faint whiff of sleaze about it. A "compensation plan" is fine, but a "compensation scheme" strikes my American ear as "tricky" or "manipulative" or "slick."

Dave and Chris:

Thanks for confirming what I suspected (but didn't have your experience to know for sure) about the use of the word in other places. A few colleagues also sent me private notes to this effect.


It is instructive, isn't it, how differently a word in an otherwise common language can be interpreted in the different countries which use it? A good reminder.

But I'm also enjoying the new glossary that we are using the occasion to build...

Base salary shenanigans

Special recognition gimmicks

Perhaps... sales commission ploys?

What else?

Glad to see others chime in on the UK/US difference. My research assistant (an American) asked me (I'm Irish) about this once. She also viewed "scheme" as highly negative - or, at best, at least really honest. That struck me as quite hilarious.


Really honest - I guess that's another way to look at it! Funny!

In my opinion, incentive schemes are referred that way because of the fact that incentives are given in exchange of an act that will benefit the company, and though it will appear like it is meant to boost the morale of employees, the big bosses are also the ones in the winning end.


So you're saying that plans are considered "schemes" if the bosses as well as the employees come out on the winning end?

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    Compensation consultant Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. Ann has more than 20 years of experience consulting with organizations in the areas of compensation and performance management.

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