Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Motivation Factor

I was reading an article about motivation for employees, and was reminded of the carrot on the stick story. I also remember reading about the carrot and the stick . When you say carrot on a stick, it is likely to mean an incentive, as it was supposedly dangled in front of a lazy donkey. The other carrot and stick approach was used by the British when they finally got hold of Quebec . They knew they were outnumbered by the Canadians but had to be careful about how they had to keep them in control, yet keep them without rebelling while still enforcing the law.

Either way, the carrot and stick refers to achieving the goal with one of them - the reward or the threat.

There are those who look at it philosophically too. How with every step one took towards the carrot, the carrot moves forward too! To say, that with each step, the destination moves ahead and so on…
The stick remains the same. As punishment. The carrot could be a motivation, a reward, a bribe, a perk… and it starts early in life. Even though Dr Spock was very critical about using a reward in enforcing discipline, at some point in time, every parent would have tried the reward approach. You do this, I will give you that…. And tried to pass it off as motivation rather than a bribe.

As, I said the whole thing started when I read this article – For a Thin Employee, a Fat Bonus. It appears there are only two things that keep the human race going. One is getting rich and the other, the obsession with getting thin. And employers are aware that healthy employees can mean only good things for the organisation. They tried providing a healthy environment. A good gym. Flexible work hours to get you to use the gym and so on. I guess it did not always work.  You can take the horse to the water....

A survey found that it is more likely that an employee will join lifestyle management programs when offered some incentive.  And soon the incentive programme evolved.

GE offers employees money to quit smoking.

IBM employees who participate in wellness programs get cash rebates.

And so, corporates gained more productive employees and lower health care costs..

It’s not just these big companies. Some countries include this approach in their health programmes.

Countries like Mexico, Nicaragua, Jamaica offer incentives for parents bringing their children for vaccinations.

In Scotland, cash for groceries is offered to those who quit smoking

In Tanzania, a World Bank sponsored programme pays young men and women $45 for every negative test for a sexually transmitted  disease

Women belonging to low income group in Minnesota receive a $10 benefit for undergoing a mammogram

A non profit organisation in the US pays teenagers to not get pregnant and to attend school. The money is kept aside for college enrolment.

Well? Some argue that incentives should not be used to induce people to move to a healthy lifestyle. Others feel, this at least gets them started. Some may not feel the benefits of a health programme immediately and may need some motivation to start off.

And all for a healthy cause, it couldn’t be better! And whoever dangles that carrot in front of the stick, would not do it if they did not stand to benefit. Right?  And what about those who do not have these generous employers. I guess one can indulge in some self motivation. Nothing can be more self -rewarding.
Cartoon source -


  1. The "carrot on the stick" is an age-old therapy to get anybody (man or mule!) kick-ass and get working. Working and working for that "elusive" carrot dangling on the stick :P

  2. Incentives for not getting pregnant! That is a wonderful idea. I think they learned it from our government who was paying those who underwent vasectomies.
    This is the simple human psyche.I have seen very rich and senior doctors crowding and pushing for a throw away pen,during conferences.

    I was wondering what kind of incentive we could offer to our politicians to stay away from looting!

  3. U have cogently brought home your point and your point has a point.

  4. Totally agree with you ma. In our office they have set up a badminton court.. and it is a lot of fum; i think it helps encourage teamwork and lose weight in our extremely unhealthy lifestyle (though productivity may have reduced!)

  5. Well i need my company to read this article so i get motivated tooo :) but i mean in good sense..

    and incentive for thin , but giving up smoking is good ..
    I liked your theory and take ...


  6. @RGB- Sure you will get it sometime. Will not be easy though.
    @Dr A - Despite the incentives, our population did not show the decrease that was expected. And as for politicians - they look for the loot and not the incentive
    @Jagdish - Thank you
    @K - you playing badminton? Wow!@Bikram - :-( Sure there are many like you. Better not think about it.

  7. Very interesting tidbits, Radha. Offering carrots for not getting pregnant, for going through mammogram, for not contracting STD to low income group people to corporate employees to stay fit...good analysis.

    Our Karuna offers TV sets to people who already have one too, for votes in the next election!

    But I like his ambulance service and health insurance for the poor. At least somebody gets the benefit from us tax payers' money.

  8. Self motivation is ideal, but how to teach children?

  9. I'm a bit late coming here- but I enjoyed ypour post!

    Anyone who has raised children would know about dangling a carrot in from of them! :)

    A bonus for employees to get thin?? Great idea!

  10. Very nicely written. Promotions and salary hikes are the carrots that always keeps moving. Once the chaser understands that he moves in search of other greener pastures.

  11. @Sandhya - if the politicians are looking for votes and using our money for some well-meaning schemes, we do not mind. But some freebies at our expense are unforgivable.
    @Indrani - kids are difficult to tackle. And which parent doesn't go through tough times to get jobs done?
    @Manju - very true. And yes, you have been away from blogosphere for some time now. Miss your posts.
    @Rajesh - very true. It is said the carrot has to be given to the donkey once in a while, otherwise as you say it stops getting fooled.


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