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Thinking About Rewards Essay

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  1. From the article entitled “Dump the Cash, Load On The Praise“, why is salary alone not a motivator?

            According to the article, while money has its merits and value, it is often not enough.  Studies show that employees have always valued other things more than money.  These other things include:

  • verbal and non-verbal affirmations and praise of performance;
  • the respect of colleagues and peers;
  • feeling that one is making a contribution;
  • having interesting work, and;
  • getting involved in and being informed about what’s happening within the company.

            The article explains that recognition is vital in boosting an employee’s esteem, which would in turn improve his/her performance.  Recognition makes the employee do “something special” because he/she knows that someone will notice and someone will care.

            In contrast, relying on money alone will get the work done.  But it is not necessary the employee’s best work.  It was also found that in this situation, employees often do their least, and do not go “above and beyond” expectations.

            In addition to money, the article suggests a compendium of “motivators” — praise, recognition, promotion and growth opportunities, and challenging work.

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  1. After reading Nelson’s top ten ways to motivate today’s employees list, identify five suggestions from that list that would be effective strategies to use to motivate you as an employee. Explain.

            Be willing to take the time to meet with and listen to employees–as much as they need or want.  This is most important to me at my current job, because above all, I need to learn about the job.  Having regular discussions with my boss would not only help me in the learning process, it also gives me a chance to clarify some things, as well as, provide an indicator of my progress.

            Provide specific feedback about performance of the person, the department and the organization. Basically, for reasons the same as above.  Only this would also provide me with a glimpse of what values, attitudes and performance indicators are getting more weight.  It also helps me learn more about the company, the people and the dynamics.

            Strive to create a work environment that is open, trusting and fun. Encourage new ideas and initiative.   I like to work in an environment where I don’t feel the need to conform to everyone else’s expectations.  And since I am new, I expect to contribute some systems that I have learned in the past.  I want to be able to try out these systems without any fear of making mistakes, the same mistakes that we all can learn from.  I would like to be able to express ideas and not be shot down without getting heard.

            Involve employees in decisions, especially when those decisions affect them. I think it’s only fair to involve me in decisions about things that would affect me, both on a personal and professional level.  That way, I can share my situation and opinions.  It would also make me feel like my inputs are important, while giving me an opportunity to better understand the issue from the management’s perspective.

            Give people a chance to grow and learn new skills. Show them how you can help them meet their goals within the context of meeting the organization’s goals. Create a partnership with each employee. Probably, the first thing that would make me leave is a sense of stagnation the feeling that I am no longer learning or the things I’m doing is getting routine.

  1. From the “Getting Happy with the Rewards King” article, do you agree with Bob Nelson’s position that “while money is important to employees, thoughtful recognition motivates them to perform at higher levels?” Contrast Nelson’s perspective with that of Alfie Kohn in the “For Best Results, Forget the Bonus” article where he argues that rewards don’t work.


            I agree with Nelson when he says that money is not everything, and that recognition motivates people to work at higher levels.  I have seen this happen many times at work, with myself, or with my colleagues.  I’ve seen it happen in school.

            It is also intuitive, and common sense.  You can’t get anything from beating a dead donkey.  In the same manner that you can’t get the best work out of a demoralized employee.  Recognition builds the employee’s self-esteem, and shows him/her what is important in the organization.  It helps him/her create positive relationships with colleagues and superiors.

            Nelson’s empirical ideas is backed by years of experience in human resources.

            Kohn, on the other hand, drives home the point that the effect of rewards is, at most, temporary.  Kohn argues that rewards are more like punishment.  However, unlike Nelson, Kohn’s arguments are not rooted in research, or empirical observations.  In fact, Kohn’s ideas run contrary to what I’ve seen and learned thus far.

            Sure, Kohn cites studies but fails to name them.  I feel that the conclusions derived from these “studies” (if they do, in fact, exist) are either limited, or erroneous.  Organizational behavior is a complex phenomenon that it’s difficult to weed out extraneous variables, even in most experimental settings.  Kohn relates the findings found at an unnamed Midwestern company, where an incentive system was taken out.

At first, Kohn says, the production went down as expected, but in the long term, production rose to a level at par or higher than before.  Since the “study” was not actually named, we could only judge it from what Kohn wrote.  Firstly, it seems simplistic that an experience or result at one company should apply to the general population.  Secondly, Kohn failed to eliminate other causes, like the workers learning more about their processes or additional machinery acquired, and other things.  For me, Kohn’s cited “studies” seem largely unscientific and and their applications are profoundly limited.

            However, Kohn succeeds in explaining why recognition should work.  Ironically, by comparing recognition and punishment, Kohn showed us that recognition as a catalyst for behavioral change has the same impact as punishment.  We all report to work on time to avoid pay deduction, or a warning.  We don’t smoke in areas we’re not supposed to, because of the company policy, or the indignant stares we get.  Like it or not, punishment works.  By equating recognition with punishment, Kohn undermines his statement that recognition do not and will not work.

            And since Kohn cites “studies” from social psychology, it would be interesting to know what Kohn thinks of conditioning theorists like Skinner who expoused the importance of positive reinforcement on behavior changes and learning.

            In the end, all Kohn is arguing is the value of the reward involved, not the recognition system per se.  For Kohn, a reward of higher value would make recognition’s impact more felt.

  1. Intuit is cited as among the Fortune’s Best Companies (#33 on the 2007 list, up from #78 in 2004) to work for because they have a corporate culture that is always focused on employee recognition. Go to the Intuit website and review their rewards program for employees http://web.intuit.com/about_intuit/careers/rewards/ .  In light of our readings on rewards, what is your assessment of the Intuit rewards culture?


            If I were to serve as a judge for Fortune’s Best Companies to work for, Intuit would jump from #33 to at least the top 20.  For one, Intuit has an enviable benefits package, including medical, vision and dental plans, a flexible spending account benefit, stock plans, assistance and referral programs.

            While the Web site is largely silent on non-cash recognition, it can be inferred that the company cares for its employees.  Its disability insurance that pays up to 70% of the employee’s basic salary promotes a sense of security for its labor force, in the event that something bad happens to them.  The company’s openness and assistance in their employees’ savings, as well as its assistance programs, also speaks about the company’s concern. The company is also committed to help employees learn formally with a tuition assistance programs.  Furthermore, the company even pays for their employees’ gym memberships and fitness classes.

            More than that, the company says on its Web site that employees are recognized through cash and non-cash incentives.

            Intuit is right up there on the list of best companies to work for because of all these.  They are right on target and on track with recognizing their employees, making them a company to be emulated by others.

  1. How does your organization stack up with respect to creative and fun work environments with respect to reward systems?

            I have just been recently hired as a contact representative by the Social Security Administration.  Even though I am still in training, I find that my job is  fulfilling based on what my colleagues tell me and what I see from them.  First off, I have a supervisor who provides me regular feedback on my performance and how I am progressing, and even the things that I need to address or learn more.  I work at an office that specifically values respect among its workers and to its callers.  There is actually a written policy that says each employee must treat other employees–and customers–with respect, regardless of their race, gender, age, religion, etc.  My colleagues are actually very friendly and helpful.

            I also find that the very nature of my work–talking to a variety of people about their social security, their checks, and their benefits–is stimulating for me.  There is always a new case with new circumstances every single day.  I am grateful that my colleagues also find time to share their stories and their work.  At various points of the day, we share “tips” on how to handle irate callers, or how to best process a complaint, or what to do in a particular instance.

            Even if the SSA is a very structured organization, I find that we have leeways in handling calls.  We actually can use our own methods in answering calls and getting the information to the callers.  It’s not that stiff.  The quality of your work is based on how clearly you’ve communicated the information to the caller, and how you handled the caller.

            What’s more, I work with people that puts a high value on camaraderie.  Just yesterday, a colleague celebrated her birthday, and everybody chipped in to buy her a big chocolate cake, while our department boss gave her a bouquet of flowers.

            I think I’m going to like it there.

  1. In your experience, is employee recognition a scarce commodity in organizations? Why is that so?


            No. I think I have been very lucky to be involved in organizations in the past that respected and valued diversity and initiative.  In a way, I have been praised for my work.  I have also been objectively reprimanded for lapses.

            I am currently in an organization that strives to build relationships among its people.  The same organization that is very clear with what it aims to achieve, and rewards the people who makes it happen.

            It’s not really just about commissions, or big fat incentives.  Recognition comes in various forms.  My personal criteria is that if it makes you feel warm all over, if it boosts your self-esteem, if it makes you want to repeat your behavior, then that’s recognition.

  1. What is the most important lesson you took away from these readings and discussion?


            My most important lesson is that while recognition has profound positive effects on the employees–and ultimately, the organization–it doesn’t have to be expensive.  Recognition could be as simple as a pat on the back, a good word, or singling out the employee/s who did good and thanking them.  Recognition does not have to be elaborate, it just have to be apparent.

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Thinking About Rewards. (2017, Mar 14). Retrieved from http://coindex.cash/thinking-about-rewards-essay

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