The Fountain of Youth

By Malcolm Fleschner

Nothing motivates employees like an incentive contest offering an all-expenses paid trip to an exotic location like Hawaii or the Caribbean. But today’s workers often request incentive trips to an entirely new destination – the plastic surgeon. According to a recent article in Potentials Magazine, plastic surgery has become so mainstream and accessible that workers now are inquiring whether companies will include reimbursement for cosmetic procedures as so-called lifestyle incentives.

Bill Grassie, manager of compensation and business planning for Sprint, is quoted in the article saying the telecommunications giant receives many such requests along with other lifestyle incentive requests, including home improvements and more traditional vacation getaways.

Louise Anderson, CEO of Minnesota-based Anderson Performance Improvement, told Potentials this new trend merely reflects an increasing effort on companies’ part to offer employees greater choice when selecting how they want to redeem incentives. Anderson goes on to note that since introducing the option of plastic surgery in clients’ incentive programs seven years ago, her company has seen such requests grow dramatically.

“It triples and quadruples,” she says. “That one-line item is at the top from year to year. It’s what they want. We use that as an example to show that choice is so important.”

Ultimately, changes in the incentive community merely reflect shifts taking place in the larger culture. With TV shows like The Swan and Extreme Makeover becoming popular and the affordability and availability of certain procedures such as Botox injections and eye tucks growing, it’s inevitable that demand will increase among the broader population.

In 2002 6.9 million Americans had some work done. Last year the figure jumped to 8.3 million. According to Dr. Alan Matarasso, a New York plastic surgeon, cosmetic procedures are growing in popularity because people today take greater interest in both their personal and professional image.

“Certain industries are more prone to it,” he notes, “but everyone from Wall Street executives to CEOs to average Joes” are opting for plastic surgery. “Job issues do play a greater part than they may have before.”

Dr. Matarasso cautions incentive program developers not to involve plastic surgeons directly in reward or incentive programs because such efforts might run afoul of professional guidelines. “We can’t ethically accept an offer to do a contest or prize,” he says. “It doesn’t really matter who pays for it, but to say we’ll offer plastic surgery for a contest is unethical.”