Tag Archives: manipulation

Limitations of Performance-Reward

“There is nothing wrong with Performance-Reward (Work=Paycheck),” I said. “It is the contract that we make with employees. They show up each day and do their best in exchange for the agreed-upon compensation.”

Helen looked down, picturing something.

“I know you see yourself as a Motivator,” I continued. “And, here is why Motivation is so important for managers.

“I asked you before, if I was getting the Performance I wanted, as a Manager, why did I give two hoots whether it was Motivation or Manipulation (Performance-Reward). Here is why.

Performance-Reward requires you, the Manager, to be present, either physically present or present-by-threat, meaning, you will be back to check on things. So, Performance-Reward requires the proximity of the Manager.

“Second, the duration of the behavior is short, happens only to the specification required to get the reward. And if something happens to threaten that reward, diminish that reward, delay that reward, the performance stops.

“And that’s why Motivation is so important. As a Manager, we need sustained performance even when we are not around. We need more than Performance-Reward.”

Is Manipulation a Bad Thing?

“I just don’t like to think of myself as a Manipulator,” Helen said. “I want to believe that, as a Manager, I am perceived as a Motivator.”

“Great cover-up, isn’t it?” I smiled. “Listen, Helen, I am not suggesting that you do things, as a Manager, through deceit and trickery. What I am saying is, don’t fool yourself (11th commandment). Most of what we do is Performance-Reward or Underperformance-Reprimand, external inducements to get desired behavior.

“So, tell me, Helen, is manipulation necessarily a bad thing?”

Helen paused. “I just don’t like it. It doesn’t sound good.”

“Have you ever been working on a project, where you needed everyone to stay an extra half hour, to staple and bind all the reports, or to get a truck loaded with an emergency shipment to a customer; a situation where you needed just that extra bit of effort? So you tell everyone that you are ordering in a pizza, if they would just stay on for the half hour?”

“Well, sure, it happens, but what’s wrong with that?” Helen replied, then chuckled. “It’s a good thing my team likes pizza.”

“Exactly, just understand it is Performance-Reward. It is NOT Motivation.”

Reward or Reprimand?

Helen’s face dropped. Her smile extinguished.

My words, “Sounds like manipulation to me,” rang in her ears.

“But, but, what do you mean?” she gasped, not in desperation, but surprise.

“I mean, most of the things we do as Managers, fall in line with manipulation. We create expectations of performance, we get the performance, the team member gets a reward.

“Or more clearly, we create expectations, if we don’t get the performance, the team member gets reprimanded. Either way you look at it, most of what we do as Managers, is manipulation.”

I Certainly Don’t Manipulate

“Well, I certainly don’t manipulate my team members,” Helen insisted. “I like to think that I motivate them to get the work done.”

“Tell me, how do you do that?” I asked.

“Well, I think it begins on their first day at work. Our orientation does a really good job of explaining to them our philosophy as a company, our mission in the marketplace, where we standout against our competitors. Then, everyone, no matter what their role, goes through a pretty intensive training program, to make sure they have the skills they need to be successful. In my opinion, it’s pretty motivational.”

“How so?” I probe.

“Once they come out of training, they have to pass some competency tests, to make sure they actually have the skills they need. If they do that, they immediately get a pay rate increase, from training pay to Pay Band I. Our training pay is just above minimum wage. Pay Band I is calculated based on their actual role, their job description. It’s beginner’s pay, but it’s a step up, so immediately, they are rewarded for their efforts.”

“So, if they successfully complete their training program, they receive a reward in the form of a pay increase?”

“Yes,” Helen replied, smiling and nodding.

“Sounds like manipulation to me,” I observed.

Motivation or Manipulation?

“So, what’s the difference between motivation and manipulation?” I asked. “My kid is in the back seat of the car, and I ask him to put on his seat belt. I tell him that if he puts it on, we will go get ice cream as a reward.

“What is it? Motivation or manipulation?” The class sits on the question. Several want to leap out of their chairs with the answer, but they know it will make them a target for the discussion.

“My kid is in the back seat of the car, and I ask him to put on his seat belt. I tell him that if he doesn’t put it on, he won’t be able to play on the computer tonight.

“What is it? Motivation or manipulation?”

Contrived System of Reward

“But the worst part of my little bonus system,” Reggie confided, “was not that my managers manipulated the numbers, but that the system I created changed the mindset. I corrupted their thinking. Digging out of that hole is going to take time. And some of them will not survive. I created a contrived system to reward something I thought was good.

“And the winner of my little contest, the successful candidate who gets the position as the new division VP, is going to think he got the job by gaming the system. It doesn’t matter how I explain it, in his heart, his experience will tell him that he got the job by playing with the numbers.

“It is really true,” Reggie continued, “the behavior you reinforce, is the behavior you get. I created the incentive. I got the behavior.”

“If you are going to create a different environment, what has to change first?” I asked.

“All crumbs lead to the top,” Reggie said. “I have to change first.”