Motivation and Incentives

Motivation. Everyone needs it. Incentives. Everyone wants it. Right?

Many managers and parents use incentives as motivation. Do good work and I’ll give you a bonus. Eat all your vegetables and I’ll give you ice cream. By providing that “carrot” people will work harder. It seems like a simple concept.

Think again. When thinking about incentives, we immediately think of money. I’ll give you more money if you do good. I’ll take your money away if you do bad. But guess what? Not everyone responds the same to monetary rewards. Some people respond more positively to recognition or a sincere hand-written thank you.

Along the same lines, how do you motivate someone? Many times people rely on negative reinforcement. Why? Because it’s easy. “I’ll demote you if you don’t get better!” or “You will need to stay late tonight to fix your screw up!”

People handle the motivation very differently. Some people will respond to “You have three months to do better or else!” by buckling down, digging in, and getting to work. But some will respond by shutting down. Completely closing everything out.

How do you want your employees to respond? How well do you know your employees and his or her unique personalities? As a manager, it is your job to figure it out. It’s not easy. You will have to get out of your comfortable office chair and actually talk to people. You are going to have to care, or at least pretend to, about other people than yourself.

Get to work.

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