Carrots and sticks do not work. The old adage of motivational theories encourage then, the use of rewards to get more of the behaviour you want. Pavlov shared how he got more of the behaviour he wanted using rewards. You may have experienced this as well. Reward and dangle the carrot up front and you will get the behaviour that you want at the work place. We have just assumed that the complex nature of man, is as good as any donkey. In the workplace if you are able to get the baseline equitable pay right, you are on your way towards tapping the best from your employees. What is the baseline?

  • An equitable salary
  • An environment that is centred on performance
  • Work philosophy, centred not only the business results but also the development of people
  • Acquiring mastery in your trade

The best use of money is to pay a fair salary, that will take the issue of money off the table. Pay less or nudge the equity of what is acceptable in the market, you will have an employee who will be more concern about the unfairness then the work at hand.

Once the issue of “pay” is resolved. the use of carrots and sticks may just achieve the opposite effects of the intended aim. When used as a quickie to get fast results it can become detrimental.

Anecdotal case study

Let me share my own experience on what happened at a prestigious club, where I headed the L&D department. The new GM, wanted to quickly meet the financial targets that was set for the restaurants. His approach invoked learning and education that involved my inputs in driving 2 customer service programs over 4 days and a 1 day team building sessions. The new GM personally took over the training that involved up selling in the F&B outlets.

With the staff fully trained, he initiated a policy that rewarded the service staff with a commission if they were able to meet the targets that were set for the day. When targets for the whole team was achieved, the excited service crew rang the bell of “GREED” to celebrate. On the very first month itself, targets were achieved over and above the baselines that were set. Overnight service staff were raking in 50% more in pay and the band started to play. Everyone was excited, from the GM, to the managers and the management board. Within 2 months cracks were starting to show. The folks in the kitchen became aware of the extra $$$$ the service crew were making and they were working their pants off in the kitchen. The reward system had to be tweaked to involved them as well. The stewards had more plates to wash but their complaints didn’t matter cos they were an outsourced outfit.

Into month 3, the service crew started to disintegrate, because there was money to be earned and everyone started to carve out territorial space in the restaurant. The carrots that were dangled started to slowly poisoned the minds of the service team. There were altercations and arguments that took place in the staff toilets.  All the while, the service crew personifying their best behaviour to the club members and the GM. The band played on. In 2 months employees were raking in close to 70% more in pay. I was even invited to a celebratory dinner that was held outside the club.

Extrinsic motivations and greed

Into month 4, the crew started pooling all the extra money that was earned and distributed that pool equally amongst themselves after pay day. They started their own informal payroll system. The team even got smarter. They realised that they can out smart the system, by pooling some orders together as oppose to fighting with each other to meet the KPI set to qualify for the commissions. They did exactly that, making sure the individual targets were met in the restaurant, set towards a few. As the band played on to a rickety tune, management got wind of what was taking place on the shop floor. They pulled the stops on a reward system that was centred on greed. Carrots and stick dun work, they encourage un ethical practices. This happened with the service team, that I personally witnessed. Dan Pink shares why they don’t work;

Extrinsic rewards, brings out the worst in behaviour. For programs that can help galvanise the best in class do get in touch with us on e-mail and we can conduct the Dan Pink’s “Drive” 2 days program in your work place. This program can cater to your senior managers and departmental heads, perhaps Tim the GM I knew then should have attended this program