Sex and Bears

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

The single largest point of feedback I received from last week's post is that I am advocating pay increases, as this is apparently the only incentive. I only ever hear this from people who are only incentivized by money, but that's another topic completely. This week, I'm going to expound on last week's post. Read this one, then go back and read last week's post again.

It is a basic principle of psychology, well tested and repeatedly proven, that incentives drive behavior. Everything you do... everything... is based on an incentive. An incentive may be that you obtain something you value (e.g. sex or money) or avoid something you dislike (e.g. bears or holiday meals with the in-laws). And you may have noticed, these incentives can be intrinsic (or inside of you) or extrinsic (or outside of you). 

Intrinsic incentives may be recognition or pride of workmanship. They may be belonging to a group or a team. They may be a sense of achievement or recognition from someone important to you. They may be autonomy or freedom from supervision. That glow you get when you feel full of joy inside is because you obtained an intrinsic reward. These are the warm fuzzies you get in life.

Yes, extrinsic incentives may be salary or profit sharing. They may also be promotions or improved working conditions. They may be company cars or cell phones. These are usually things that make your life better, so think along the lines of food, clothing, and shelter.

Good managers recognize these facts and use them to improve their systems. If you want teamwork, stop having pointless team building exercises. Everyone knows what a team is and what working together looks like. We learned this in elementary school. Instead, create group incentives that reward teamwork. Good managers understand that no two people are alike, and they try to find out what motivates everyone. Once they have this knowledge, they build incentives to reward the people they want to keep on the team. 

Stop creating individual rewards like Employee of the Month, and instead recognize the Team of the Month. Stop rewarding individual behavior, like giving one person special treatment, and start giving teams special treatment. Stop incentivizing competition within your team, and start rewarding team accomplishments. Individual rewards may motivate one person, but they also demotivate the rest of the team and foster resentments. One person may improve while everyone else deteriorates, for a net loss in productivity.

What incentivizes you and the people on your team?