We often think that rewarding people for being good at their jobs would make them better at that job! RIGHT ?

Maybe that might not be the case…. “social science” shows that it doesn’t, for a number of reasons.

An analogy often used to describe motivation is the cake and the stick, with the cake being the reward and the stick the punishment driven methodology. But this reward v punishment system I believe will only work for motivating people to do simple short term activities, and it is not very great for getting people to do complex work related tasks over a long period of time or duration.

A lot of research shows that rewards only yield temporary compliance and an individuals behaviour might change for a period, but it will soon revert back to their default setting much like a failed commitment to a diet or fitness regime.

Business or company based rewards like bonus schemes, dinners, and “employee of the month” do little in the way of changing a persons attitude. It’s a similar reason why offering incentives to quit smoking or lose weight are terrible strategies for making long-term behavioural changes in individuals.

Salary and wages is part of what most management theorists call a hygiene factor, which also includes status, security, work conditions, and how your boss or manager treats you. While not having proper work hygiene makes people feel demotivated at work, the theory also states that, having lots of hygiene doesn’t make you more motivated either.


Unsurprisingly, management theory calls them motivators: personal growth, recognition, responsibility, and a challenging work environment. I would suggest that motivating people is less about the prodding and more about what factors motivate individuals.
In other words, the most motivated people aren’t the best paid or rewarded, but those who feel a connection with their work. Understanding the motivating principles that best suit your people is the first step in getting them to work more efficiently as an individual and then as a team.


Rather than structuring a workday around a reward based system, we should instead structure it around continual, collective, engaged progress.

The best way to achieve this is through goal setting.

By providing clearly defined goals and then empowering individuals within your team with the resources sufficient to complete the task… Letting your team get on with doing what they individually and collectively do best and providing them with the support and direction that is required!! This immediately provides a culture that will determine progress, motivates individuals and leads to overall productivity.