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Dan didn't mention that google employees also get stock in addition to the ability to spend 20% of their time working on "fun" stuff.

I've seen this bouncing around twitter now for a few days and while interesting - it's a single data point and very close to the "alfie kohn" school of no rewards. I posted a comment on Frank's blog about this, and I'm with you Darcy - let's not give up on incentives just yet.

What Dan talks about applies in limited areas and within organizations that have a high level of trust and respect (I'm guessing after the last round of corporate layoffs, there are less of them than there used to be.)

The key to this and to all "solutions" is that they are effective when part of an overall strategy that includes team-based and individual rewards and recognition. There is time and a place for everything.

As I mentioned in my intro - take away the stock options and other incentives and google wouldn't be what it is today!

Great post, Darcy!

As with so many provocative perspectives, Dan makes a number of great points, but also a few that beg to be taken with a grain of salt.

Like you, I couldn't help but smile at his suggestion that we (simply) "pay people adequately and fairly, and get the money issue off the table." Like it's that easy. Besides, a big part of what people believe to be fair and adequate pay encompasses having their contributions and efforts - particularly the extraordinary ones - recognized and rewarded. And - as you point out - organizations are finding an increasing need to make some part of employees' compensation package "self-funding", which only happens through some kind of link to performance.

More to say, but I'll leave it at that - and post some additional thoughts at Compensation Force tomorrow, in the hopes of getting some "cross-blog" conversation going!

Yes, great post, Darcy!

People who enjoy what they do and like who they do it for will nearly always perform better than people who are merely paid well, even if they are specifically incentivized to do work they are not engaged by.

I have also observed (as an employee, a head of HR, and as a consultant) that people who work in toxic environments or who don't like what they do and/or who they do it for, complain a lot more about pay than happy/engaged employees. My theory is that these people (and they may not even realize it) are trying to "compensate" for their crappy job, work environment and/or manager.

Anyways, that's my theory, and I'm sticking to it!

Thanks for the engaging discussion Darcy!


I think your theory is right on. And to take it one step further, why the heck don’t they take action to go someplace else, or somehow increase their situation to become happier??? I can only suspect that maybe they actually enjoy that kind of environment based on their lack of initiative. Good is good enough? Or maybe they’ve just settled.

Paul - You make a good point about Google and stock options. I'd also bet that the engineer who came up with gmail during his 20% time received a "reward" for it.

Dan Pink did start a good conversation though!

There's nothing new about the observation that people do what is rewarded and therefore the issue with a reinforcement scheme frequently is that people ONLY do what is rewarded rather than what is best for the whole enterprise. Good to see the reminders, though, because these basics can become stumbling blocks to novices.

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