It’s an age-old question and a $10 billion industry. Every year, thousands of books and self-improvement courses are sold, and the most successful motivational speakers command $20,000 to $50,000 per engagement. Yet leaders and managers in companies both large and small continue to be frustrated by “unmotivated” employees.
One of the most common motivational management theories developed in the industrial age and still used is the “carrot-and-stick” approach. If you want to make more widgets, offer your employees a reward: the more widgets they make, the more money they make. If your employees aren’t making enough widgets, then dole out a form of punishment in order to motivate them. This approach proved to be moderately successfully in manufacturing environments, so it soon spread and was widely adopted in other industries as well.
Unfortunately, the carrot-and-stick theory doesn’t work in most other industries. Some would argue that it demotivates employees more than it motivates them. In jobs that require creativity, abstract thinking and the ability to solve complex problems, success cannot be quantified in the same way that making widgets are. People are not all motivated by the same things.
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