How to Motivate Your Employees: Give Them Compliments and Pizza

Posted on September 14, 2016

It is Monday morning. You have just arrived at work, and you get one of the following three emails, each promising a different reward if you get everything done that day: One says you’ll get a cash bonus. Another says your boss will give you a rare compliment. A third says you’ll get a voucher for free pizza. Which of these would motivate you to get the most done?

If you are like the subjects in a study led by Dan Ariely, the answer (obviously, I’d argue) will be pizza, with compliments coming in at a very close second.

In his upcoming book, Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations, Ariely recounts an experiment involving employees at a semiconductor factory at Intel in Israel, which unfolded pretty much exactly like the scenario described above. Workers got one of those three messages at the start of their workweek, though about a quarter of them got no message and no promise of a bonus, thus serving as Ariely’s control group. This factory turned out to be an ideal venue in which to conduct a study like this one, because the employees’ output was tangible — they were to assemble a certain number of computer chips per day — and thus, measurable.

It’s a funny, clever little study. But it’s also a rather effective way of looking at what truly motivates people, as the results indicate that people are not moved to work by money alone. Social factors such as gratitude also play a substantial role in happiness and motivation at work; a 2011 review of 50 studies on workplace motivation, for instance, found that people tend to work harder when they felt like their work was being appreciated; performance-based pay incentives, on the other hand, tended to backfire. ‘We find that financial incentives may indeed reduce intrinsic motivation and diminish ethical or other reasons for complying with workplace social norms such as fairness,” Bernd Irlenbusch, of the London School of Economics department of management, said in a statement. This is not to say that fair pay isn’t important; of course it is. The point is that it’s not the only, or even the best, motivator for employees.

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Category(s):Workplace Issues

Source material from New York Magazine

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