The Carrot and the Stick

20/12/2018 Uncategorized

For years the carrot and stick approach has been used in organisations and workplaces to help motivate their workforce. But is this approach now becoming ineffective and outdated?

The carrot and the stick approach involves motivating people through the use of rewards (carrot) or punishment (stick). This is commonly in the form of things like financial bonuses or deductions. The problem with this approach is that it relies on what we call extrinsic motivation. If the carrot or stick are removed then the desired behaviour may stop. This means that this approach can be effective short term, but is often ineffective long term. Furthermore, multiple studies have found that extrinsic motivation techniques can even impair performance (e.g. Glucksberg’s Candle Problem). 

Intrinsic motivation on the other hand is when someone finds their role fulfilling and enjoyable. There is less need for further ‘rewards’. People that are intrinsically motivated do things because it feels good, often feel that ‘work doesn’t feel like work’.

I commonly see dental practices looking for team members. They wonder why they are struggling to find associates even when they are offering higher percentages and UDA values…

The problem is that millennials (young dentists) in particular are much more driven by intrinsic motivation. Millennials are excited by things like clinical freedom, material choices, digital technology and opportunities for mentorship. In many cases young dentists are prepared to accept a lower income if it means they will be able to have a greater job satisfaction and feel fulfilled. This is why so many young dentists are opting for hospital positions and pathways!

Perhaps it’s time we ditched the carrot and stick approach…

Further reading: Dan Pink – Drive