Rewards – Perks For Productivity or Insult To Injury?

Are little non-cash rewards like movie passes etc just the grown-up equivalent of a primary school gold star &, if so, is that a bad thing?

Leaders, managers, supervisors – all those who are charged with the responsibility of producing improved results through other people – are constantly on the look-out for ways to provide behaviour reinforcement to those people. Why? Because, for their entire careers, that’s what they’ve been taught is the smart thing to do. Maybe they’ve even had some experience of it working. Carrots and sticks, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, punishment and extinction (look it up.) It sounds plausible – reward the behaviours we want more of and disincentify those we want less, or none, of. Antecedent, behaviour and consequence. To this approach, in general terms I say, “Yeah Nah.”

Christopher Shea recently blogged briefly in the Wall Street Journal about rewards – gifts for staff for performances rendered. It’s interesting. It references a German economist’s study of the relative effectiveness of little cash rewards versus little equivalent gifty rewards. The moral of the story and it’s hard to argue with this = it’s the thought that counts. Check it out.

If you’re in a leadership role & you’re seriously considering slapping a $7 coffee mug on someone’s desk for “doing a bang-up job and just being a real trooper”, then maybe you should stop reading blogs about leadership and start reading fortunes in chicken entrails? That way you might be awakened to the possible future consequences of such a dog-treat approach to motivating people. If it’s the thought that counts (and it is) then give the thought via ongoing, sincere, specific, esteem-building, behaviour-based and timely feedback. Put the $7 in a jar. Soon enough, it’ll add up to a morning tea team soiree which is probably more effective than individual tokens which may do more harm than good.

Interesting as it was, that study was even more so after some recent reading I’ve been doing on the lie that is behavioral reinforcement in the workplace. Employees are grown-up human beings not kids or dogs. Chucking them a treat is supposed to reinforce ongoing performance improvement? I think that is true sometimes and people in robotic linear task-oriented jobs may well respond to these if they are done well.

Neverthless, if you have ordered 144 coffee mugs printed with the slogan, ‘You don’t have to be mired in 19th century management thinking to work here but it helps’ you may as well distribute them to your team – assuming they haven’t left for better jobs at the performing seals’ circus.

About Terry Williams - The Brain-Based Boss

I'm all about engaging people and helping you engage yours to influence behaviour to improve results - at work and at home. Maybe you're a manager, a salesperson, a leader, a parent, a presenter or an event organiser? You need to grab your people's attention, create some rapport, be memorable and influence behaviour change. How can we do that? I'm originally a trainer by trade, turned manager, turned comedian and partway back again. Author of 'THE GUIDE: How to kiss, get a job & other stuff you need to know', I write and speak about how to engage people, be they employees, family or yourself. How can we connect with people’s own internal motivations and help them use their own inner passions to drive towards productivity, success and happiness? And hopefully have a few laughs along the way... As a trainer facilitating learning and development in others, I find myself drawing on my own extensive business experience. I specialise in the delivery of high impact, customised training solutions for organisations that are serious about improving the performance and lives of their people.

Posted on September 28, 2011, in Behaviour, Employee Engagement, Feedback, Influence, Motivation, Team Building and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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