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Case study
Dan Price Establishes a Minimum Salary for All Employees
In 2015, Dan Price, the majority owner of Gravity Payments, raised the minimum salary for all employees from $48,000 to $70,000. He believed this would improve employee motivation. This exercise is important because as a manager, you must consider how the decisions you make can impact the motivational climate of a firm overall.
The goal of this exercise is for you to familiarize yourself with different content theories of motivation and to understand when it is appropriate to apply which theory.
Read the case about Dan Prices decision to raise the minimum salary for all employees at Gravity Payments. Then, using the 3-step problem-solving approach, answer the questions that follow.
Dan Price grew up in a family of seven, whose evangelical Christian parents homeschooled him and his siblings until they were 12. The family had strong roots in reading and studying the Bible, which was a daily activity. Price was very interested in learning the scriptures and reached the finals of a Bible-memorization contest in the fifth and sixth grades.1
In 2004 Price, then 19, started Gravity Payments with his brother Lucas. The brothers initially had a 50-50 stake in the company, but about 18 months later Lucas Price ended his direct involvement in the company and Dan Price became the majority owner.
Gravity Payments is a credit card processing company. According to an article about the company inBloomberg Businessweek,The day-to-day work at Gravity Payments is pretty unglamorous. Gravity is a middleman between merchants and payment networks, namely Visa and MasterCard, which in turn connect to banks that issue credit cards.2The office is a conglomerate of desks and computers in bland cubiclesbut the space is reorganized every six months so people can sit near different colleagues. Price does this because he doesnt want people to get too comfortable.3
The corporate home page describes the company as follows: Take care of your team, and theyll take care of your clients. Gravity Payments recognizes the value in establishing an entrepreneurial, goal-oriented, rewarding, honest, and innovative culture, which is what makes our company such a remarkable place to work. We believe in a holistic and balanced lifestyle, supporting our team members with:
$70,000 minimum wage
Unlimited paid time off
Medical, dental, and vision insurance
Bonus opportunities
Flannel Fridays
Company-sponsored outings
Volunteer opportunities
Catered breakfasts and lunches4
A survey of comments on Glassdoor reveals a combination of pros and cons about working at Gravity. A sampling of comments include the following:

I have never worked for a company that cares for their customers more than Gravity. Company culture is the best I have worked with.
The company is built on a foundation of community and teamwork. I have built some long-lasting friendships. We are a community of people who are competitive, love to learn, and want to grow.
I love the team of people I work with! They value the unique skills and experience that I have, support me in accomplishing my goals, challenge me to bring my best, and inspire me to push to new heights.
Gravity Payments offers an incredible opportunity for employees to seize responsibility and grow personally and professionally. You really do get out what you put in as far as effort being rewarded with additional responsibilities and trust.
Management genuinely cares about your success and professional growth. Even though people work hard the environment is fun and social.
It can be intimidating to work with such high quality and capable people. Personal sacrifice is often necessary to provide a high level of service and support for our customers and teammates.
Its no secret that this industry is tough. As a rep you have to be very driven and handle plenty of rejection.
Be prepared to work long hours
Many days are filled with rejection and apathy.
This is not easy work. Anyone who is just looking to do the minimum and collect their paycheck will not be happy nor successful here. Be prepared to operate at 100 percent at all times, as there is rarely down time.5
Price made international headlines in 2015 when he announced his plan to raise the minimum salary of his 120 employees to $70,000. At the time, the average employee salary was $48,000.
He decided to phase in the salary increase over three years. The minimum starting salary became $50,000 in 2015 and will jump to $60,000 by December 2016 and $70,000 by December 2017. Price plans to pay for this increase without raising prices to customers by reducing his own salary from about $1 million to $70,000, and by diverting about 80 percent of company profits for 2015. This strategy is critically important because profit margins are slim in this industry, and any price increases are likely to result in a loss of customers.6
Many employees were ecstatic at the news of the salary rise. One hundred received an immediate pay increase, and 30 saw their pay double. Others were not so happy and perceived the decision as inequitable. Maisey McMaster, a 26-year-old financial manager, said, He gave raises to people who have the least skills and are the least equipped to do the job, and the ones who were taking on the most didnt get much of a bump. She felt it would have been fairer to give smaller increases with the opportunity to earn a future raise with more experience.
McMaster told Price about her feelings, and according to an interview inThe New York Times,he suggested she was being selfish. She quit.
Grant Morgan had a similar reaction in hisTimesinterview. I had a lot of mixed emotions, he said. His salary was raised to $50,000 from $41,000. Now the people who were just clocking in and out were making the same as me. It shackles high performers to less motivated team members. He also quit.
Some customers left the company because they viewed the pay increase as a political statement or a prelude to higher fees.7
A few key events seem to have prompted Prices decision to raise wages. One was a 2011 conversation with Jason Haley, a phone technician making about $35,000 a year. Haley told Price, Youre ripping me off. A surprised Price said, Your pay is based on market rates. Haley shot back that the data doesnt matter. I know your intentions are bad. You brag about how financially disciplined you are, but that just translates into me not making enough money to lead a decent life.8Price was shocked and upset.
Price also came to feel that pay inequality between himself and his employees was simply wrong. He told a reporter fromThe New York Timesthat income inequality just eats at me inside.
According toBloomberg Businessweek,Prices original pay was atypical for a company of Gravitys size and profitability. The companys profit was $2.2 million in 2014.BloombergBusinessweekreported that at private companies with sales like Gravitys total revenue, salary and bonus for the top quartile of CEOs is $710,000. At companies with sales like Gravitys net revenue, the top quartile pay falls to about $373,000. At those with a similar number of employees as Gravity, the top quartile of CEOs makes $470,000 in salary and bonus.9
Price told a CNBC anchor in 2011 that he was making probably $50,000 in 2011, which he noted was the most Id ever made in my life. This statement contrasts with data reported in a lawsuit filed by Lucas Price, who retains a 30 percent stake in the company. According to a reporter for, The filing discloses Prices compensation as CEO dating back five years. It says Price received $957,811 in compensation in 2010, $908,950 in 2011, and more than $2 million in 2012, which represented more than 20 percent of Gravity Payments $9.9 million in sales that year.10
Prices compensation is at the heart of his brothers lawsuit, filed about a month before the wage increase was announced. Lucas Price claims Dan Price was taking millions out of the company, detracting from the financial benefits of being a minority owner.
Bloomberg Businessweekreviewed court papers and stated that the lawsuit claims Price improperly used his majority control of the company to overpay himself, in the process reducing what Lucas was due. Daniels actions have been burdensome, harsh and wrongful, and have shown a lack of fair dealing toward Lucas, the suit alleges.11Lucas Price wants his brother to pay for damages and buy him out.

A judge ruled in July 2016 that Lucas Price had failed to prove his claims that Dan had overpaid himself and inappropriately used a corporate credit card for personal expenses. The judge also ordered Lucas to pay Dans legal fees,” according to a reporter forThe New York Times.12
Apply the 3-Step Problem-Solving Approach to OB
Step 1:Define the problem.
Look first at the Outcome box of the Organizing Framework inFigure 5.11(Links to an external site.)to help identify the important problem(s) in this case. Remember that a problem is a gap between a desired and a current state. State your problem as a gap, and be sure to consider problems at all three levels. If more than one desired outcome is not being accomplished, decide which one is most important and focus on it for steps 2 and 3.
Cases have protagonists (key players), and problems are generally viewed from a particular protagonists perspective. Identify the perspective from which youre defining the problemis it that of Dan Price, Lucas Price, or Gravity employees?
Use details in the case to identify the key problem. Dont assume, infer, or create problems that are not included in the case.
To refine your choice, ask yourself,Why is this a problem?Explaining why helps refine and focus your thinking. Focus on topics in the current chapter, because we generally select cases that illustrate concepts in the current chapter.

Step 2:Identify causes of the problemsby using material from this chapter, summarized in the Organizing Framework shown inFigure 5.11(Links to an external site.). Causes will appear in either the Inputs box or the Processes box.
Start by looking atFigure 5.11(Links to an external site.)to identify which person factors, if any, are most likely causes to the defined problem. For each cause, ask,Why is this a cause of the problem?Asking why multiple times is more likely to lead you to root causes of the problem.
Follow the same process for the situation factors.
Now consider the Processes box inFigure 5.11(Links to an external site.). Consider concepts listed at all three levels. For any concept that might be a cause, ask yourself,Why is this a cause?Again, do this for several iterations to arrive at root causes.
To check the accuracy or appropriateness of the causes, be sure to map them onto the defined problem.
Step 3:Make recommendations for solving the problem.Consider whether you want to resolve it, solve it, or dissolve it (seeSection 1.5(Links to an external site.)). Which recommendation is desirable and feasible?
Given the causes identified in Step 2, what are your best recommendations? Use the content in Chapter 5 or one of the earlier chapters to propose a solution.
You may find potential solutions in the Example boxes and Applying OB boxes within this chapter. These features provide insights into what other individuals or companies are doing in relationship to the topic at hand.
Create an action plan for implementing your recommendations.

1. P. Keegan, Remember the Guy Who Gave His Employees a $70,000 Minimum Wage? Heres What Happened Next,Slate,October 23, 2015, to an external site.), accessed March 17, 2016.
2. K. Weise, Hero? CEO Dan Price Has His Reasons for Raising Base Salaries to $70,000. Altruism May Not Be One of Them,Bloomberg Businessweek,December 6, 2015, 6470.
3. P. Keegan, Remember the Guy Who Gave His Employees a $70,000 Minimum Wage? Heres What Happened Next,Slate,October 23, 2015, to an external site.), accessed March 17, 2016.
4. See The Credit Card Payment Processing Company Merchants Trust, to an external site.), accessed March 17, 2016.
5. Gravity Payments Reviews, to an external site.), accessed March 17, 2016.
6. See K. Elkins, Employees Had a Surprising Reaction to the News that Their CEO Was Raising the Minimum Wage to $70,000 a Year,Business Insider,April 29, 2015, to an external site.), accessed March 17, 2016; and J. Spross, Why Gravity Payments Could be Setting a Business Model for the Future, to an external site.), accessed March 17, 2016.
7. P. Cohen, A Company Copes with Backlash Against the Raise that Roared,The New York Times,July 31, 2015, to an external site.), accessed March 22, 2016.
8. P. Keegan, Remember the Guy Who Gave His Employees a $70,000 Minimum Wage? Heres What Happened Next,Slate,October 23, 2015, to an external site.), accessed March 17, 2016.
9. K. Weise, Hero? CEO Dan Price Has His Reasons for Raising Base Salaries to $70,000. Altruism May Not Be One of Them,Bloomberg Businessweek,December 6, 2015, 6470.
10. See T. Bishop, Filing Reveals Gravity Payments CEO Pay and Internal Financial Results,GeekWire,February 9, 2016, to an external site.), accessed March 17, 2016.
11. K. Weise, Hero? CEO Dan Price Has His Reasons for Raising Base Salaries to $70,000. Altruism May Not Be One of Them,Bloomberg Businessweek,December 6, 2015, 6470.
12. R. Abelson, “Seattle C.E.O. Who Promised $70,000 Salaries Wins Suit Filed by Brother,”The New York Times,July 10, 2016, to an external site.).

Case Assignments:Unless otherwise noted in the assignment instructions, these should be between 2-3 FULL pages in 11 or 12 pt font, using APA format. You should have references and citations for these assignments as well. No title page is necessary, but DONT FORGET YOUR NAME!! You can find information on apa format in the 6thedition APA manual, or at to an external site.).

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