The BCF Group

Carrot and Stick Approach to Motivation

Managers always need to keep in mind that their employees are individuals who will often have differing and contrasting personalities. This also means that they will respond in different ways to the attempts of the manager to motivate them and get them to achieve certain targets and goals.

Obtaining Results Through Rewards or Punishment

One of the old adages of management and motivation techniques is the carrot or stick approach. Originally applying to animals, it describes whether to get it to move by enticing the animal with a nice juicy carrot in front of it as a reward, or beating it with a stick. Getting the animal to move is the objective or target, and the carrot and stick are a means of achieving it.

Managers who wish to get their workers to achieve a certain objective can also apply one of these techniques. Whilst many workers would not be too enthusiastic about receiving a carrot, rewards such as a bonus amount of money, more leisure time or promotion can greatly encourage them to work harder in order to achieve the objective. Conversely, the manager can take the stick approach. Whilst beating employees with a stick is illegal in most countries, threats such as being fired, receiving a pay cut or being publicly lambasted for failing to achieve targets can all act as a metaphorical stick and encourage the employee(s) to work harder to avoid such undesired consequences.

A Spectacular Success or a Spectacular Failure

Both ways can be extremely successful methods for motivating workers to get the task done, but conversely both ways are fraught with danger, particularly the stick approach as this can easily have the opposite effect to its desired intention if employees rebel against their treatment. The carrot approach may work the first time, but workers might then expect to receive rewards for every project or major task they complete, on top of their regular salary. This will be expensive for the company if they maintain this practice, and could cause de-motivation and poor performance if the employees no longer receive the rewards. They may also wonder if they have done something wrong this time. The issuing of rewards can cause resentment and a decline in the morale of workers in other departments, for example the administration department who play a vital role in the successful accomplishment of a project may be seriously annoyed if only the sales team receive rewards. This can not only lead to a decline in the performance of the administration department itself, but also create disunity, poor teamwork and lack of communication between the departments which can be seriously detrimental to the smooth operation and future success of the business.




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