Behind every unmotivated
employee is a leadership problem
waiting to be solved. Yet many
leaders see motivation as a game of
rewards and punishment. Forget
the cash. Forget the threats. To
engage today’s workforce, a leader
is well advised to seek the heart
of what moves people: their three
basic psychological needs.
What About Sales Incentives?
bonuses, incentives, and so on—is a given
in sales organizations. Self-Determination
Theory recognizes the reality of external
motivators in a sales environment, and
advises that to support internal motivation
in salespeople, how the leader uses these
incentives makes all the difference.
Salespeople can suffer serious psychological
harm if sales leaders overemphasize incentives
to pressure or “motivate” people to reach sales
goals. In these cases, salespeople experience
stress and burnout, focus less on customers
and more on money, and can resort to
unethical actions to gain the rewards
Observing these problems, many leaders assume that
employees, having secured food and shelter, become
passive. So these leaders try to control employees
with threats of punishment or with external rewards,
including bonuses, wage incentives, or promotions.
While it’s safe to say that many leaders will continue
using these methods to motivate employees, literally
scores of peer-reviewed studies since the 1970s have
confirmed the negative impact of external rewards.
Among the startling findings:
1. Rewards consistently undermine sustained, longterm
motivation and performance.
2. Rewards for something employees already like
to do especially undermine motivation and
3. Rewards make it more difficult for employees to
be creative and solve complex problems.
Consider a simple example. In the 1993 Wimbledon
final, Jana Novotna led the great Steffi Graf 6-7, 6-1,
and was serving at 40-30 for a 5-1 lead in the final set.
But Novotna double-faulted, then...
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