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Chapter 8 Motivation: From Concepts to Applications

Case Incident 2: Bonuses Can Backfire

It might seem obvious that people will be motivated by bonuses, but many scholars question this premise. Alfie Kohn has long suggested that workers are “punished by rewards” and urges that organizations avoid trying rewards to performance because of the negative consequences that can result. As an alternative to rewards, some experts recommend that managers foster a positive, upbeat work environment in hopes that enthusiasm will translate into motivation. Although reward can be motivating, they can reduce employees’ intrinsic interest in the tasks they are doing. Along these lines, Mark Lepper of Stanford University found that children rewarded for drawing with felt-tip pens no longer wished to use the pens at all when rewards were removed, whereas children who were not rewarded for using the pens were eager to use them. Similar experiment in which children completed puzzles have also shown that increasing rewards can decrease interest in there warded task. Some have questioned the extent to which these results generalize to working adults, but concern about rewards diminishing intrinsic motivation persists. Rewards can also lead to misbehavior by workers. Psychologist Edward Deci notes,” Once you start making people ‘s rewards dependent on outcomes rather than behaviors, the evidence is people will take the shortest route to those outcomes.” Consider factory workers paid purely based on the number of units they produce. Because only quantity is rewarded, workers may neglect quality. Executives rewarded strictly on the basis of quarterly stock price will tend to ignore the long-term profitability and survival of the firm; they might even engage in illegal or unethical behavior to increase their compensation. A review of research on pay-for-performance in medicine found that doctors who were rewarded for treatment outcomes were reluctant to take on the most serious...
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