The Carrot And Stick Approach

It just past midnight on the Eastern seaboard on October 17th, 2013 and Hispanic Heritage Month officially ended this past Tuesday. I hope that although there was a lot of focus on the chaos happening in Washington, you were able to celebrate your Hispanic Heritage if you’re a Hispanic, or celebrated the contributions of your Latino workers in your organization this past month. I’m also happy to have read in the news that the House officially voted to end the government shutdown and raise the nation’s debt ceiling until February of 2014 a little past 10PM on Wednesday October 16th, at least now, those two items are behind us and we can begin to focus on other things…like Q4 and the upcoming retail holiday season.

Last week I had the opportunity to have a good conversation with a colleague and the subject of an employee had come up (shocker right?!), this HR professional had mentioned how the employee had inquired about moving into a different department, currently there were no openings available for this particular employee to interview for, and then she said something along the lines of the prospect of a position that may or may not materialize keeps the employee “motivated and engaged.” At the time I didn’t say much on her particular opinion, but the thought kept nagging at me and I couldn’t help likening her opinion to the “carrot-and-stick” theory…except without the carrot.

Now, the more conventional approach to the carrot-and-stick theory is usually tied into some form or monetary or non-monetary award based on an employee’s performance. I’m sure that many of you have either; implementing a reward system or revising your existing reward system for the upcoming holiday season on your to-do-list.  Personally, I am not a fan of this particular approach to rewarding employee performance, for starters; extrinsic rewards for the most part tend to be temporary, they assume people are driven by lower needs, and can become a diminishing factor to teamwork in your organization. If not managed properly, the allure of an extrinsic reward can lead to a reduced performance output from employees if they lose interest in the award or in a worst case scenario; can lead to unethical behaviors in order to achieve a bonus payout (spoiler alert: I have an upcoming post highlighting this particular ethical concern).

Getting back to my conversation with my colleague about motivating and engaging the employee, for starters: stringing someone along is not the right way to “engage and motivate” someone. Clearly, if your employee is looking to move into a different department, chances are; he or she is probably looking at other organizations as well. In this case, my colleague would probably be better suited in attempting to identify the underlying issues that are causing the employee to look at other departments or other organizations: is it the job? The people they work with? Pay? Developmental opportunities? Or is the employee looking to do something new? Once the issues have been identified, then and only then, can you create a plan that will keep the employee truly engaged and motivated.

What are your thoughts or advice for my colleague?

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