Control and Reward

“People work predominantly for a reward”. Many MBA students hear and then use in order to control workers’ performance.

Motivation is an enigmatic thing. In different types of organizations managers all around the world struggle to motivate employees to get the best out of them.  And this is a crucial activity on all levels of an organization.
Being a boss does not necessarily mean being a good leader or motivator. There are countless examples reporting intolerable task masters, or ultimate micro-manager, or even horrid manager thus creating a horrible work environment... and the list goes on and on. This kind of a boss is definitely not favored by employees and no motivation comes from him/her. Instead, workers are deeply demotivated by injustices, emptiness of demands, inconsistencies, lack of transparency, self-importance, arrogance, superiority, miss-communication, or even management incompetence. They just try to survive. Still, some of these bosses climb the current Forbes 400 list.

Although a lot of researches show that ignoring other peoples’ work is as bad as shredding it, we still do it. Is the reason why in our simplistic way of thinking why do people work? We mostly believe that people at work care just about the money and as soon as we give or take it they “retaliate” one way or another. At jobs that demand cognitive skills a higher reward often leads to poorer performances, say the researches.

Adam SmithIn uncertain times companies complain about productivity. If factory workers, builders or any other people that don’t require creative thinking are paid more, they are generally more productive.

Karel MarxWith people where creativity is a predominant component of a job we need a different approach. In the book “Irrationality” psychologist Stuart Sutherland reveals the fundamental questions about the role of reward. Both, psychologists and laymen, tend to assume that if you want to get people to do something, rewarding them, whether by praise, sweets or money, is the best way to go about it. In the short run, this may be true. But this goes against one major psychological theory of motivation that alleges: if people are rewarded for some activity, the desire to engage in it will eventually become autonomous. They will be motivated to perform that activity even without reward.

People like “to fight” and have challenges. It motivates them. The motivation can take on most, if not all, obstacles. In businesses it is very important to be open-minded and be able to think differently in order to solve problems of rewarding people and giving the meaning to their work. Therefore, as Dan Gilbert said in his TED talk: “In pre-industrial area Adam Smith was right about efficiency but not now in Knowledge-economy where Karl Marx is right about motivating by meaning!”

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