How NOT to motivate and reward employees

Employee rewards and motivation aren’t the simple matters they seem. They require thought and diplomatic subtlety. Are your incentives turning employees off?

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(Editor’s note: This was one of the top viewed stories of 2015. We’re rerunning it as part of a look back at the articles that captivated our readers the most.)

When a newspaper company had to cut costs it made their entertainment writers redundant. To fill the entertainment review columns it came up with what it thought a novel way to deliver reviews and motivate the remaining employees: The newspaper offered free tickets to staff for theater, music and cultural events, but with the condition that they write reviews. The writer of the best review each month would be rewarded with a bonus of $100.

Not only did the staff see that the company was trying to cheaply replace what it had chosen to forgo, through redundancy, by asking the remaining staff to carry out extra work for free, the artists and organizers of the events also realized they were being short-changed. As tickets are generally offered free to media outlets, on the understanding artistic endeavors will receive professional coverage in return, event promoters were surprised to see the newspaper’s advertising sales rep, or office manager, turning up to “review” their play, concert or exhibition.

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