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Beyond taking care to assure that the incentive taps into employee motivations (is it adequate to overcome inertia or temptations for non-performance?), I'd emphasize clarifying expectations and clearing obstacles. Task interference (simultaneous demands on time and attention, interruptions, etc.) and lack of resources (tools, equipment, staff, money, feedback information, etc.) are the most frequent toxic influences.


Also important conditions, thanks. Plus, as you note, the all-important task of determining the appropriate size of award. Big enough to overcome inertia, but not so big as to overwhelm all else...

Drive by Daniel Pink. This book has dramatically changed how I look at incentives and rewards, including the issue Ann raises: without the right conditions, incentives can actually demotivate and punish employees. There is a huge disconnect between what studies show and what businesses do around performance and rewards.


Thanks much for the comment and for sharing your thoughts. This is helpful for me to hear. Part of my struggle with Drive and Pink is that nearly everything he says and writes is already consistent with my worldview - in reality, I've always been somewhat a reward cynic - yet I disagree with his conclusions that incentives are harmful by definition and default.

As you note, I think many, perhaps even most of us have fallen victim to the worldview that rewards are always the first best solution - when in fact they belong at the end of the line, and only if/when the necessary conditions for their success have been met.

Appreciate hearing from you!

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