- Blog post
The one extrinsic reward that every employee needs
If you’ve read Daniel Pink’s bestseller Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, you know he demolishes the notion that people are motivated by money and most other extrinsic rewards.
He points to study after study proving that if your workplace promotes Autonomy (don’t over-manage people), Mastery (give employees interesting work they can excel at) and Purpose (give people a cause higher than themselves), they’ll be remarkably motivated and productive, assuming of course that you’re paying them fairly.
Like most readers, I found Pink’s advocacy of intrinsic reward very persuasive. And it struck me while reading it that I’ll never be able to motivate my employees by taking Easy Street – that is, just paying them more. It won’t work (as I suspect Google will soon find out – in December they gave all employees a 10% pay raise to discourage talent flight).
Instead, I have to figure out how to create and sustain an environment where my employees can tap their own intrinsic motivation. Getting it right will take a lot more thought, and a lot more work, than authorizing a pay raise. That said, it sounds like a fun challenge, and I have a ton of intrinsic motivation to pursue it.
When I finished the book I was left with a thought about extrinsic motivation. True, pay-for-performance probably doesn’t work. True, even some nonmonetary rewards could backfire if they seemed like a crass payoff for complying with a rule or impersonal goal.
But there’s one extrinsic reward that I believe should never be replaced – recognition from a boss. No matter how happy and intrinsically motivated employees are, they still need to know that somebody is paying attention. They need to know that their boss “gets” that they’re good and can tell the difference between excellence and mediocrity.
As a boss, you’re the audience, sort of like the symphony hall is Yo-Yo Ma’s audience and the gallery is Tiger Woods’ audience. Excellence should never be like the proverbial tree falling in the forest. It needs to be acknowledged.