The stick is viewed as a control method of getting employees to do what you need. The idea is that if you drive them with fear of consequences they will not want to deviate and therefore, will do as told. Which is true…as long as you are standing over them holding the stick; akin to watching them all the time.

The carrot is viewed as the method that entices employees with rewards; which works; as long as the rewards keep coming and for some people, keep getting bigger and better. This can be expensive over the long term though it is more positive and creates incentives for performance if standards are clearly defined.

I think it’s the wrong question.

The methodology I teach; based on years of performance-based management research; outlines the precise steps for engaging employees to partner with you on performing to the standard you request. It creates a situation where the employee takes ownership of his or her own performance and is empowered around the work they perform. It is both positive and effective.

Employees don’t like working in an organization driven by fear; and while they like incentives, they do little to engage the employee for intrinsic reasons.  In an environment where quality employees are difficult to find; and might be hard to keep; it pays to engage employees in being committed to the job for reasons that are important to them.

Here are some general points to keep in mind:

  • Always find out what impressed your employee about the organization; beyond the paycheck. There is a reason they chose to apply. What is it about the work that is enjoyable or meaningful to them.
  • Start your employees off right. Explain and train in the highest standards of performance from the beginning.
  • Engage them in two-way dialog on a routine basis to find out how they are doing at work and if they have any concerns.
  • Create a powerful dialog for setting expectations and creating ownership around the work required.

Fear is never a long-term solution. And while incentives have a place they don’t create a partnership with employees. Setting clear expectations and creating ownership are the keys to motivating your employees to sustain high performance; whether or not you are looking over their shoulder.


About Judi Pine-Sellers

Judi Pine-Sellers is a small business consultant specializing in employee productivity. She has designed dozens of management and employee programs used world-wide. Judi is an expert in all phases of managing employee performance; selection; orientation; training; correcting performance problems; career development; and succession planning. She holds a Master’s Degree in Instructional Design as well as advanced certificates from Thunderbird School for International Management and the University of Michigan, Executive Education Business School.

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©2018 Judi Pine-Sellers

The Carrot or The Stick? What Motivates Employees More?

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