Can Awards Demotivate?

Can Awards Demotivate?

Post from: MAPpingCompanySuccess Larkin is an assistant professor Harvard Business School and he shared some interesting research last spring.

The study focused on the effect of rewards, and although the subjects were laundry plant workers the results apply to knowledge workers, too.

The plan rewarded workers for being on time and not missing days.

The results were not as expected and productivity dropped.

In other words, the rewards plan ended up demotivating the workers.


Because it was easily gamed and structured to reward actions that were an expected part of the job, such as being on time.

Rewards should always be for going above and beyond the job description, showing initiative, creativity, reaching out to support not just the team, but others with whom they interface, etc.

It’s also important to remember that money isn’t always the best reward.

Most studies have proved that praise is an excellent driver of performance, productivity and good feelings—public recognition/kudos usually carries more weight than bought rewards such as meals or movie tickets.

“You can’t put a price on that. The recognition of hearing you did a good job and that others are hearing about it is worth more than money.”

The main thing to remember is that awards aren’t a solve-all panacea for an ailing team.

“You can’t say awards are good or bad. It depends on how they’re implemented.”

And they certainly won’t/can’t replace good management skills.

Flickr image credit: FSNR


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