Motivation with a SCARF Twist

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The SCARF (an acronym for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, Fairness) model, a brilliant gift of neuroscience invented by Dr. David Rock, is an interesting tool to understand an individual’s social behavior in a group. The model is broadly based on two themes, “Minimizing threat, Maximizing reward” & “Correlating several social experiences to primary social needs”. Knowing the SCARF model aids to understanding the drivers that cause a threat or beget a reward response thus enabling an individual to implement the optimized interaction path with others. Though the other two articles on “Managing the brain” (also sketching out the SCARF model) and “Six thinking hats” were fairly interesting reads, but reading about the SCARF model really grabbed my attention since I was now able to correlate a lot of management techniques/decisions I have seen in the past to this model. Motivation strategies and the SCARF model have a close tie. Typically motivation is aimed at bringing about some form of reward response from the individual(s).

I have sketched a few ‘low-cost’ motivation techniques Organizations may implement during economic turmoil, relating them to the threat and reward responses of the SCARF model.

Threat: Uncertainty – During economic downtimes many Employees fear uncertainty. There is a baseline fear of losing jobs, taking salary cuts or being transferred to other departments. Reward Response: Motivating Employees using the ‘open communication’ tool, giving them the reward response of certainty, minimizes this threat. If an Organization chooses to throttle increments, bonuses or promotions it becomes imperative to clearly communicate its rationale to the Employees. Employees always appreciate a transparent management style in matters that directly impact them.

Threat: Autonomy – During low performing quarters Organizations do not want to go wrong anywhere. This fear...
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