There Must Be a Better Way to Get Us Working; Psychology: What Is the Best Way to Motivate Workers? the Answer Might Surprise You, Says Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Raj Persaud

The Evening Standard (London, England), March 29, 2004 | Go to article overview
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There Must Be a Better Way to Get Us Working; Psychology: What Is the Best Way to Motivate Workers? the Answer Might Surprise You, Says Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Raj Persaud


Byline: RAJ PERSAUD

PSYCHOLOGISTS have carried out a mass of research to find out what makes us work hard, yet managers stubbornly ignore the findings. Instead, they stick to two discredited theories of motivation - the carrot and the stick.

The carrot method is based on a deeply dark view of human character which basically contends that we only do things because of the pay cheque.

But in reality, all that happens when money is the motivation is that people demand more and more cash to do less and less.

Increasingly, they concentrate on tasks which can make them the most money - which is not the same as those which are the most helpful to each other or to the organisation as a whole.

Meanwhile, other employees who are less well paid become envious and resentful and may seek to settle the score by stealing covertly from the organisation or fiddling the books.

The other well-tried motivational method is the stick, which involves being threatened with punishment, humiliation, lost wages or the sack if you don't produce the goods at the rate your boss would like.

This approach merely leads to most employees investing huge efforts in avoiding being caught slacking, which means working at the minimum level required to avoid a kicking.

But the big problem with both the carrot and the stick is that they ignore the obvious fact that some of the most motivated human behaviour occurs in areas where no financial reward or punishment is involved, for instance, the motivation of a mother to care for her child, or a husband to please his wife, or a golfer to improve his swing.

So what does motivate us to work hard?

To find out, researchers asked people a basic question: what do you find most rewarding about work?

THE answers are all psychological and have little to do with money or fear.

What the workers wanted was a sense of achievement, recognition from colleagues of their good work, a sense of responsibility, a sense of career advancement and, finally, a feeling of personal growth.

The problem is that few work environments are designed to produce any of the rewards on this list.

To improve things, people need to be given more freedom to do the job the way they want to do it, rather than as dictated by "policy", guidelines or managers.

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There Must Be a Better Way to Get Us Working; Psychology: What Is the Best Way to Motivate Workers? the Answer Might Surprise You, Says Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Raj Persaud
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