Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Is the Purpose of Incentives to Motivate People?

Article after article tells us that we should halt our use of incentives because people aren't motivated by money. Or because they are motivated by money, but to do the wrong things.
I can't help feeling that many of them are missing the point.
Many of the incentive arguments centered around whether or not money motivates people reflect a wrongheadedness about the role of and reason for variable pay. This stems in no small part from the Deci/Kohn/Pink worldview that contingent rewards exist solely as bluntheaded instruments of control, as bribes, as a means of getting people to do things they would otherwise not be inclined to do.
I reject this point of view. It suggests that most employees come in each day unwilling to do good work and unwilling to help their organizations succeed. I don't buy that. While there are bad apples in every bunch for sure, I don't think it's true of most places and for most workers.
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