In our society, motivation can be characterised by four steps: the behaviour initiation or the passage where there is no activity to the beginning of tasks execution. This step requires some intellect, physique or mental expenditure. The second one is the behaviour towards the goals, where motivation guides the behaviour to the setting goals. The third step is the behaviour intensity, or the level of efforts deployed. The last one is the behaviour persistence or the continuity in the time of the direction and intensity steps.
In this essay, we will see how managers could motivate the most effectively their employees and if rewards or punishments are the best tools to give the necessary motivation in order to be as productive as possible.
In a first time, we will see that rewards and punishment are affective tools to motivate employees and in the second part we will explain that there are other effective tools leading to motivation.
I) Rewards and punishment as effective motivation tools
A) Managers use rewards to increase motivation
In our society, managers can provide a large range of rewards, serving as incentives for employees to increase motivation and thus productivity. Armstrong define rewards with the 4Ps: Pay which means bonuses, salary, shares, Praise including positive feedback, staff-of-the-year award, Promotion with higher status, career elevation and the 4th one Punishment referring to disciplinary action, withholding pay, or criticism.
Deci and Ryan call this extrinsic motivation: It’s the behavior that is driven by external rewards such as money, fame, grades, and praise. This kind of motivation arises from outside the individual. Indeed, manager knows that self interest is the bottom line of employee’s motivation and providing what employees want is the main management strategy used by companies in order to increase work productivity.
Skinner theory, or the reinforcement theory tend to use rewards to improve specific and right behaviour like be the most performing employee, maintain the company’s sustainability or increasing the sales volume (positive reinforcement) but they are also used in order to avoid wrong behaviours leading to negative consequences to the company (negative reinforcement). Eventually, those kinds of rewards provide employees the necessary motivation to work effectively.
B) Manager also uses punishment to motivate employees
As reward is the positive way of increasing motivation, punishment is the negative way of improving the right behaviour to have and thus the employee’s motivation.
According to Skinner theory, punishment is providing negative consequence to employee in order to avoid undesirable behaviour in the future. Punishment can be divided in two kinds, fair and unfair punishment. Fair punishment increase positive worker’s outcome with a better behaviour. It occur even if you try to do right, even you have ethical behaviour but if employee find it fair, consequence will be positive, leading to an increase of motivation.
The second punishment is the unfair one, meaning that managers will insult, mentally damage the employee and thus decrease the motivation. However, doing it in public is a better way to avoid undesirable behaviour for all the employees, even if you humiliate one of them. It’s called “social learning theory” or the facts that people learn from observing the other’s rewards/punishments in order to avoid or repeat some behaviour. However, it could lead to unethical behaviour, for example if someone gets a promotion with stealing or cheating ways... other employees tend to repeat the same behaviour in order to have the reward!
Thus, it’s difficult to implement an effective punishment system because it could create a hostile and aggressive environment in the company, but with a good one, wrong behaviours are avoided and employees have more motivation to work.
Eventually, we’ve seen that rewards are the most common way to increase motivation and to