Already this year I’ve written a few posts (here, here and here) on why bonuses as a primary means of recognition reward fail. Now I’ve read some research featured by Dan Pink, in which he recounts experiments done with two groups. While taking a simple survey, one group was given a visual “cue” of seashells. The other was given a visual cue of money. The result:
“Liu, Smeesters, and Vohs say that money cues can operate as threats and “produce contrarian reactions that are the opposite of the source’s intent.” Other research has shown that being reminded of money can make people more single-minded and more apt to work harder — but also less social, less cooperative, and less likely to help others.
“It’s a bit odd, they explain. ‘Money has bigger effects on people’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior than simply what it can do as an exchange medium or store of value . . . Mere reminders of it are enough to drastically change people’s preferences for work, play, and interpersonal relationships.’
“So the next time you try to raise the issue of moolah in an effort to persuade a prospect or an employee, think twice. Making it all about the coin can sometimes get you the opposite of what you want.”
Single minded and harder working are, indeed, good results – but is it worth the trade-off of employees becoming less likely to help others?
What should you do instead? Keep in mind the research showing that hearing a simple “thank you” made the recipient 100% more likely to help again in the future.
“Thank you” vs. bonus. More willing to help vs. more selfish.
The choice seems easy to me. But if you need more convincing, check out this video of real-estate mobul Barbara Corcoran, founder of the Corcoran Group and personality on ABC's Shark Tank. Corcoran speaks to recognition motivating better than money by driving people to think differently and bulding people up again and again.
Pay particular attention to the 04:22 mark where Corcoran says:
"Recognition will buy you time. Not phony recognition - 'Oh, you’re amazing,' but real recognition - 'I want to tell you what a great job you did.' Private recognition, not public. Whatever you can do to give people recognition for their uniqueness and success, people will marry you forever."
So if you don't use money to motivate, what should you do instead? Forbes offers this list of 8 ways to motivate without money.
Do you rely on cash bonuses as your primary means of recognition in your organization? Are you willing to trade willingness to help for selfishness?
As Globoforce’s Head of Strategic Consulting, Derek Irvine is an internationally minded management professional with over 20 years of experience helping global companies set a higher ambition for global strategic employee recognition, leading workshops, strategy meetings and industry sessions around the world. His articles on fostering and managing a culture of appreciation through strategic recognition have been published in Businessweek, Workspan and HR Management. Derek splits his time between Dublin and Boston. Follow Derek on Twitter at @DerekIrvine.