Transparency and “Gaming the System”

By Raphael Crawford-Marks



Gaming the system.

The #1 question we get from users, press, and social media is some variant of “What stops people from giving bonuses to their friends and vice-versa?”

First off: collusion is not a problem on This blog post will explain why. But first, let’s look at a peer bonus system where collusion was a problem.

Watchdog says awards for GSA executives were excessive; system lacked transparency:

'The “Peer-2-Peer” awards, which cost taxpayers $160,000…are among several flaws and violations of federal regulations…found in a review of the General Services Administration’s system of giving awards and bonuses and reviewing the performance of its top executives.'

The GSA created an awards system where executives could give each other peer bonuses. Sounds good in theory, but the system was flawed in at least one key way: it was completely opaque. No one could see or review the bonuses that were being given, besides the giver and receiver.

Under the system, “many bonuses and cash awards were not properly vetted and were made for questionable reasons”. And the practice went on for over two years before it was stopped.

Had the GSA implemented a system where all bonus activity is completely transparent, then such abuses would have been phenomenally difficult, if not impossible. Transparency is a powerful anti-corruption force, so much so that the worlds leading anti-corruption organization is called Transparency International.

While it’s still possible to cheat in a transparent system, it is much, much harder. In fact, to date no company has reported even a single incidence of collusion on Bonusly. In fact, data we gathered recently showed that reciprocity in bonus giving was even less common than random chance would have produced.

Written by Raphael Crawford-Marks

Raphael Crawford-Marks

Raphael is co-founder and CEO of Bonusly, where his focus is on creating a work environment that enables the Bonusly team to thrive.

Originally published on January 29, 2014 → Last updated July 24, 2017