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Salary Exchange For Gratitude (SE4G)

A voluntary and random exchanging of salaries among employees for extending experience and expressing gratitude to each other, once a year.

Photo of Sadam Matsawili
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Meaning of Salary

A salary is a form of payment from an employer to an employee, which may be specified in an employment contract. It is contrasted with piece wages, where each job, hour or other unit is paid separately, rather than on a periodic basis. From the point of view of running a business, salary can also be viewed as the cost of acquiring and retaining human resources for running operations, and is then termed personnel expense or salary expense. In accounting, salaries are recorded in payroll accounts -

A monthly salary is to a great extent a determinant of how valued or appreciated is an employee by an employer. 

To most of the employees, salary differences may be a measure of the degree of importance of an employee in the workplace. These differences sometimes create a feeling of inferiority and superiority complex among employees in the workplace, putting the lowly paid employees on the disadvantage side.   

Types of Gratitude Expression in the workplace

With me I think, there are three types of gratitude expression in the workplace. 

  1. Expression of gratitude by employers to employees
  2. Expression of gratitude by employees to employers, and
  3. Expression of gratitude among employees 

The first two types of gratitude expression can be briefly explained as follows;

Expression of Gratitude by Employers to Employees - This include the provision of both in-kind (i.e. saying thanks, gratefulness cards,etc.) and monetary (i.e. bonus, salary increase, double salary, etc). It can be expressed (quantified) in terms of the percentage of annual profit, and in-kind level. 

Expression of Gratitude by Employees to Employers  - This can be expressed in terms of productivity, accomplishment of job assignments and willingness to continue serving in the workplace. 

The third type of gratitude expression and the most important to be clarified in this very idea is an expression of gratitude among employees themselves. 

Expression of Gratitude among Employees - This can be expressed in terms of Salary Exchange for Gratitude. If employees can't express gratitude among themselves, how can the employers express their gratitude to them? The willingness and ability to express gratitude among employees can be translated into their cooperation in the workplace and hence productivity, as well as to the strength and solidarity of their respective Trade Unions.  

What is Salary Exchange for Gratitude (SE4G)?

Salary Exchange for Gratitude is a voluntary initiative of randomly exchanging salaries among employees in the workplace, once in a year - December.

How does it work?

Before preparing the December Payroll (by Mid December), the Human Resource Manager or other staff responsible for payroll in the workplace calls a staff meeting or communicate with all permanent staffs about their willingness to exchange their salaries for expressing gratitude. He/she should let them informed that this is a voluntary initiative in the workplace, and nothing will happen to staffs who are not willing to participate in the process. 

All consented staffs are then recorded, and their normal salalries recorded in papers records all salaries on small but equal sized papers, He/she then folds and mix up all salary papers and toss for each employee to pick one, and show the HR for recording his/her December Salary. The randomization can also be conducted eletronically in case some employees can not physically attend. 

For example, suppose a company with 10 employees with the following monthly salaries, and consent responses to salary exchange for gratitude;

Who is involved?

Only employees in the workplace who are ready to express their gratitude to their fellow workmates are involved in the salary exchange process.

What is the rationale behind it?

The salary exchange initiative can be used as a measure of employee's (including top bosses) readiness to express their gratitude and appreciation of everyone's role towards achieving the company/organization goal.

What is Salary Exchange For Gratitude Scale (SE4GS)?

This is the measure of employees' readiness to exchange their salaries for expressing gratitude among employees in the workplace. The scale ranges from 0 to 1, and can also be expressed in terms of percentages (0% to 100%).

Example of SE4GS Calculations:

SE4GS Formula, and Range


It can be simply refered to as Salary Gratitude Scale (SGS)

Uses of SGS

  • Gratitude comparison across workplaces  
  • Gratitude comparison across countries, in the related workplaces
  • Monitoring Gratitude trends in the workplace over years
  • Ranking - by Trade Unions and International Labor Organization (ILO)
  • Helping new employees to select best employers 

SGS Monitoring & Evaluation 

The SGS can be monitored and evaluated over years for the sake of comparison within the workplace and across organizations and countries. There might be at least four SGS patterns - Increasing, Fluctuating, Declining and Constant SGS. 

A. Increasing SGS

B. Fluctuating SGS

C. Declining SGS

D. Constant SGS

Company/ Organization Goal

Every Company/organization has a common goal. And this common goal to be achieved, division of labor among employees comes in. Unfortunately, this division of labor sometimes turns into 'more important' and 'less important' employees in the workplace.

But if an employee thinks that his position is more important than other positions or roles in the organization, he/she should also imagine the situation where all employees would prefer holding his position.

Statement for the Challenge

If you think you are ready to express gratitude to your fellow employees, agree to randomly exchange your salary at least once in a year. But if you feel like there are some employees who are getting salaries which you don't deserve, it means you are not ready to express your gratitude at your.

I have myself worked with two companies, one giving a double salary at the end of the year (December) while the other giving a bonus proportional to individual salaries at the end of the year for the sake of expressing gratitude.

Disadvantages of Bonus and Double Salary Initiatives:

  • They keep the income gap between highly paid and lowly paid constant
  • They create inferiority and superiority complex among employees
  • They increase the Monthly Remuneration Budget

Advantages of Salary Exchange Initiative:

  • It doesn't increase the Monthly Remuneration Budget
  • It helps highly paid (seniors) to practically understand the demands of lowly paid employees (juniors)
  • It reduces income inequality and the sense of superiority/inferiority complex at the workplace
  • It gives hope to lowly paid employees 

Ideally, "thanks" works better in a family but not in businesses. And that's why we pay each other. Salaries have a lot to tell about gratitude at workplace.

Diversity in the Workplace

Job titles and diverse roles  among employees in the workplace are just there to make the company/organization's goal a success.

It should be understood that, we can't all be bosses in the workplace, but being a boss should not mean that you are the most important in the organization.

Contravening the Determinants of Salary Scales

As an economist, I understand that there are several factors considered during the determination of employees' salaries within the workplace including;

  • Educational level
  • Working experience
  • Labor Market Demand and Supply
  • Degree of substitutability 
  • Level of accountability 
  • Risks involved in the post
  • Government Legislation (minimum wage)
  • Strength of Trade Unions
  • Cost of living - responsibilities 

But as far as the differences in salaries create superiority/inferiority among employees in the workplace, we need to clear that once in a year by randomly exchanging salaries to show that all employees are equally important in the workplace. 

Idea Title

Salary Exchange For Gratitude (SE4G)

How the Idea will inspire the experience and expression of gratitude within an organization.

The expectation to randomly exchange salaries will bring hope to all employees, and makes everyone feel equally important within an organization. It will make the highly paid employees to consider the lowly paid employees and therefore find a way to improve their remunerations. The organization will be interested to see its Salary Gratitude Scale increasing, and therefore reducing remuneration inequalities among employees for them to take a low risk when thinking t exchange salaries at the end of the year - December. Employees will be in a good position to know each other, in terms of who is ready to express gratitude to others and who is not. Employers will also be informed of this.

Who are you innovating for?

The lowly paid employees are going to benefit more from this idea, while the highly paid employees being helped to experience the difference. By experiencing the difference, highly paid employees will be thankful and responsible. Lowly paid employees will be waiting for things to change in the future, and thus feeling equally treated in the workplace. Specifically, the idea is further intended to benefit permanent employees and not internships and temporary employees in the workplace.

What type of workplaces are you innovating for?

This idea is designed for any organization especially private companies throughout the World, in which employees are paid different salary rates and pursue diverse responsibilities. The idea is suitable for private companies with any number of people, seated in the physical office, and if not seated together an electronic random selection may be used. For public employees, the idea can work better at a departmental level though there might be many challenges, as they are not for profit.

How you envision the Idea being introduced to your selected organization?

Overtime, the idea will be adopted by many workplaces, one after another. The Salary Gratitude Scale (SGS) will be famously used by job seekers, Trade Unions, ILO, etc. In the organization, the idea should be implemented by the Human Resource Manager through asking employees' consents, and listing, mixing and tossing respective salaries for every consented employees to randomly select their December salary, before the payroll preparation. I would collaborate with organizations in disseminating information about the importance of expressing gratitude in the workplaces, as well as conducting research to get the testimonies of employees being involved in the salary exchange initiatives

What obstacles, if any, do you foresee in implementing this Idea, and how would they be overcome?

The biggest challenge in implementing this idea is that employees with higher salaries will be fearing to loose. But opposing the mission will be failing to express gratitude. The other challenge is that sometimes salaries are confidential, but writing all salaries without its owner will still be observing confidentiality

How will you test and prototype your solution?

First of all, I will visit few private companies and interview employees about their gratitude preferences and the readiness to exchange their salaries in December. I will also set up a small fund (say $100), then provide different amounts to 5 employees (say $40, $25, $20, $10, and $5) then ask for their exchange consent. I will write down the amounts from consented employees, and toss them for a random selection. The process will be voluntary, and employees may decide not to participate.

What immediate next steps will you take if you receive an implementation grant.

An opportunity to work with mentoring organizations will help me to do the following; 1. Learning more about the expression of gratitude at workplace - Research 2. Disseminate information to organizations on the importance of expressing gratitude 3. Collaborating with Trade Union and Labor Organizations like ILO to make things better 4. Developing a database (web) for organizations using the Salary Exchange for Gratitude 5. Informing and linking Job Seekers to employers with highest SGS

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

This idea emerged from the conversation between company employees who were struggling to get their salaries improved. Some were even admiring the increment of at least one month. And because the increase in salary have a lot of cost implications, exchanging the same salaries can be better. With my position in the current workplace, i am informed about the feeling of employees on the differences in remunerations and at least how happy they are with the Bonus system at the end of the year.

Tell us about yourself

I am an entrepreneur and researcher. I graduated my Bachelor Degree of Arts in Economics and Statistics at the University of Dar es salaam, Tanzania in 2010. Since then, i have worked with 2 different private companies. I am a Managing Director of my newly founded company called Afrosoft Limited. I work work my young brother Mahad who is an ICT professional. We have committed friends to team up

Where are you / your team located?

We are located in Bukoba Municipal Council in Kagera region, Tanzania.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

Afrosoft Limited is a private company registered in Tanzania with number 121712, based in Bukoba. I founded it with my young brother, Mahad Matsawili.

Company / Organization Name

Afrosoft Limited is a private company based in Bukoba, Tanzania focusing on ICT, Research, Consultancy, Agribusiness, and Entrepreneurship.


Tell us about your experience

I am a researcher and entrepreneur. I've been working with a research firm - EDI Ltd for over 5 years; as an Interviewer, Data Processing Officer, Project Coordinator, and Assistant Operations Manager

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Sadam Matsawili .

Thanks for engaging in the Challenge! In the Challenge Brief, we specify we are particularly excited about ideas that are...


Leading Ideas for this Challenge should help employees surmount some of the psychological and structural hurdles to gratitude at work. They should meet at least one, if not all three, of these criteria:

Internal // Internal to Organizations. Ideators should propose ideas to be implemented inside organizational and workplace cultures, not concepts to help organizations express gratitude externally, such as to their customers or shareholders.

Authentic // Authentic Gratitude over Obligatory Gratitude. Ideas should try to facilitate genuine feelings and expressions of gratitude, not mandate or force them. This means recognizing and appreciating the many types of gifts that an individual or organization has provided to others, whether they be gifts of time, effort, material goods, or social or emotional support. It recognizes the intention that went into that gift, the effort or other cost that went into the gift, and the benefit or value it provides to those who received it. The goal is to make these experiences and expressions of gratitude more authentic and habitual; they shouldn’t be driven by a desire to increase productivity or curry favor with others.
Systemic // Think Big, Think Broad. Ideas should consider the complexities of organizational structures and experiences, and design solutions that can be implemented broadly, perhaps even system-wide. At the same time, they should also be specific, mindful of how they would actually be implemented in organizations.

How does your concept meet this criteria? Are you aware of any companies currently operating with this practice?

Excited to learn more!