Recently, the team at Slaughter Development stumbled upon an article that listed the ten most despised jobs in America. And while there was validity in the complaints of those who work in such areas, we found one such agitation surprising.
Previously on The Methodology Blog, we brought you the notion of the misery index—the degree to which employees detest their work. For the top ten most hated jobs two complaints came to the forefront: lack of opportunity for career advancement and a lack of rewards.
We can’t waste another opportunity to address the latter of the two complaints. As many of you know and have certainly experienced, this is a common tactic in many offices worldwide. And why not? After all, office incentive plans such as pizza parties, sales contests, new titles or even additional vacation time sound like good ideas on the surface. But do these efforts actually empower people to be more engaged at work? According to our research, the answer is no. In fact, rewards are almost never a good idea.
Given all the content we’ve published on employee productivity and rewards, it’s no secret that we have a low opinion of extrinsic motivators. If we want people to be truly passionate about their work, we have to do something much more difficult than giving out prizes and trinkets. To effectively motivate employees we need to grant them authority and responsibility. This is our message today, and it’s been a major theme of ours for many years.
In 2009, we encouraged readers to say no to productivity bonuses:
If you’re an employee and you are offered something extra for a job well done, consider something radical: refuse to accept that bonus. Tell your manager that you want to be motivated not out of fear, greed or expectation, but out of a personal desire to contribute. Light a fire within yourself, not one beneath you or one to run toward. Get excited about working hard for the sake of hard work itself.
In 2010, we expressed just how important it is to actually value productive employees:
The best compensation for a job well done is not always monetary in value. There is something to be said about passing along deserving and sincere praise. Trusting and believing in your employees, your colleagues and/or your stakeholders is incredibly important. Yet, if you don’t take the time to express such appreciation they may never know the value they hold. Lacking a sense of value may deter individuals from striving for high performance, efficiency, or even success.
In 2011, we focused in on the counterproductive nature of extrinsic motivators:
Clients should be people who believe in our value and want to pay for our expertise, not people who have been motivated mostly through gifts, prizes and discounts. The best customers, like the best employees, are those that are driven by a sense of purpose. Prizes should be used sparingly. Motivation is what gives work meaning.
Certainly, we aren’t aiming to be the party crashers. A cake and ice cream celebration now and then might be a nice way to bring smiles. Yet, we must be firm in our belief that rewards (or lack thereof) in the workplace should not define the extent to which stakeholders are happy, satisfied and valued. Stop rewarding employees. Start respecting them instead!