Friday, July 15, 2011

Salaries as Rewards - a Non-Sequiter

Here is a guest post by Nick Jaworski. Nick is a Director of Studies based in Shanghai, China, where he lives with his beautiful wife Hande. He also blogs about ELT in Turkey and China at Turkish TEFL. Follow him on Twitter here.

by Nick Jaworski

"Your salary is a reward. People work for salaries, so rewards must work." This is the faulty logic I often hear when discussing my dislike for the use of rewards in education and business.
Rewards are a tool used to manipulate (or more positively - extrinsically motivate) staff and students into doing what you want. They place a carrot in front of the individual and say, "Hey, if you try hard enough, this could be yours." This is fundamentally different from a wage or salary.

Wages and salaries are based on mutual agreement by both parties. It's a contract. The company says they believe this job is worth such and such pay. The employee agrees and accepts or disagrees and looks elsewhere. That salary does not change regardless of the extent to which you do your job.

While salaries that are too low often result in worker dissatisfaction and lack of productivity, higher salaries do not equate with increased performance. The extent to which an employee does their job is generally a result of job satisfaction, personal competence, and faith in the company.

What rewards try to do is to motivate the employee to work harder by offering them something in return for a desired behavior or outcome. It moves motivation from something internal to the employee to something external. This has all kinds of negative consequences that have been written about by many others before me. I recommend Challenging Behaviorist Dogme: Myths about Money and Motivation by Alfie Kohn and Daniel Pink's speech on TED as good starting points.

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