Discretionary Effort - It's in Our Blood
It's hard to break loose of the traditional management thinking that productivity depends on carrots and sticks. Reward your top performers and make your underperformers walk the plank...putting a healthy dose of fear into the equation. And there's plenty of discussion over which is more effective, the carrot or the stick.
But what if I told you that neither carrot nor stick was particularly effective and that both sticks and carrots tend to interfere with an employee's natural drive to excel? That in fact, our very brain chemistry makes us want to rise to the occasion and do our best?
According to Paul Zak professor of economics and director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California, our brains produce a chemical called oxytocin when we are exposed to public praise and recognition. Oxytocin boosts emotional intelligence, along with a desire for teamwork and cooperation. When oxytocin levels rise people may be more trusting, compassionate and eager to lend a helping hand.
Studies of oxytocin imply that discretionary effort at work, the amount of "above and beyond" that an individual is willing to chip in, can be increased by making the workplace more open, transparent and purposeful. Using praise, not as a manipulative reward, but as a natural response of thanks for a job well done can help boost an individual's eagerness to work harder for the common good.
Carrots and sticks may work on animals, but the human touch is what it takes to get people working together.