Does The Carrot and Stick Approach to Work Culture Make Sense?
It would be pretty straightforward if the carrot and stick approach to work culture guaranteed the behaviors and results that you seek. Also called reward and recognition systems, companies spend millions trying to align rewards and consequences with desired results.
Similarly, every year around holiday time, children become more and more concerned about being “good little boys and girls.” Their motivation is strong. Behaving well can bring gifts from Santa; behaving poorly can bring a disappointing lump of coal. But companies, just like parents, struggle to create effective reward and recognition programs.
When the Carrot and Stick Approach to Work Culture Has Benefits
When you are trying to build and encourage a desired corporate culture, we believe that a carrot and stick approach to work culture can have a powerful impact on some areas. Specifically it can help to accelerate specific behaviors that you want to disappear and encourage those that you want to reinforce. Just as you would clearly define to your small children what constitutes “naughty” and what constitutes “nice” behavior, you must start by clearly articulating the desired company norms to each and every employee.
Then you can put a system in place that encourages the “nice” behaviors that fit your desired culture and discourages the “naughty” behaviors that go against the way you want work to get accomplished.
Invest in Shaping Your Culture
Smart leaders do not let their corporate culture form by default. They purposefully shape their high performance culture by being clear and consistent about how they want (and do not want) things to get done. They then use timely, clear and meaningful rewards and consequences to encourage the specific behaviors they want to promote and discourage the behaviors they want to eliminate. While we strongly believe in the power of intrinsic motivation, we also know that clear measures of success and failure are required to help populations of people to perform at their peak.
What Does Neuroscience Say?
Neuroscientists tell us that our brains are constantly on alert – seeking rewards and minimizing threats. Our brains lead us toward some things and away from others. This fact can play a huge role in the way we fashion corporate culture.
Because we are social animals, social acceptance and status are important to our overall well-being. We naturally seek opportunities for advancing our social standing, for knowing the answer, and for being right. When we are recognized for doing the right thing, we are more likely to repeat the particular behavior that brought us the psychic and emotional reward.
The Bottom Line
Poorly designed reward and recognition programs can absolutely waste money and decrease employee engagement. To start, clearly define success and failure for each and every employee in terms of behaviors and results. Then every time an employee exhibits the values or behaviors you are trying to embed in your culture, reward them in a way that is fair, proportionate, consistent, timely and meaningful.
It can be with a simple note of thanks or a pat on the back or recognition in front of peers. And every time an employee acts in a way that is misaligned with your cultural norms, have proportionate consequences that are fair, respectful, timely, consistent, and not unexpected. Keep it as simple and clear as you can.
To learn more about how to create a high performance culture, download The 3 Levels of Culture that You Must Get Right for peak Performance
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