Money is (not) the ultimate motivator?

Earlier this week, we learned from Dan Pink that ‘autonomy’ is an important component of why people do the things they do.  This Harvard Business Review article furthers our learning on motivation 3.0 by addressing ‘purpose’.  The author’s main takeaway is bold: the reason someone is unmotivated is because they are paid to do so.

The author argues that being paid to do something is disconnected from someone’s deeper motivation.  For example, when the AARP asked some lawyers if they would reduce their fee to $30 an hour to help needy retirees, the answer was not because the lawyers would ask themselves, “Am I the kind of person who works for $30 an hour?” However, when the lawyers were asked if they would do a favor for someone in need, the question became, “Am I the kind of person who helps those in need?” Of course the answer was yes, and they did the work for free.

Does this mean we stop paying people? Absolutely not.  It does, however, mean that money can be tied to a greater purpose.  If your staff feels like they are adding value to the organization, the customers, or their co-workers, then the author argues that they are internally motivated and will be highly likely to perform.

In our industry, upselling, time and a half, beverage promotions, etc. are all ways managers try to incentivize staff.  Are we doing it all wrong?

Option A: “If you stay overtime tonight to get these new plates through the machine, you’ll get time and a half.”  The dishwasher’s likely reaction will be to reluctantly stay behind, drag on the process to milk that time and a half, but perform at 40 or 50% productivity.

Option B: “We know you don’t have to stay behind tonight, but you’re the only one who knows how to work that machine to full capacity.  The banqueteers are really relying on you to get these new plates cleaned, and the awards breakfast is first thing in the morning.  You can really make a difference by helping us out…”

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