The A-B-C of motivation

shark canoeInterestingly, research suggests that in terms of guiding behaviour and performance, people tend to prefer feedback (i.e. a consequence of what they have done) rather than guidance (an antecedent). Time spent highlighting rules and having team meetings to brief people on work or remind them of key issues (like health and safety) is less effective in shaping the desired behaviour required at work. This is important in deciding where interventions are needed to enable people to become more productive (not much productivity is achieved by attending a meeting!).

Remember the ABC of motivation: Consequences drive Behaviour more than Antecedents. However, this does NOT mean we should manage people by ‘punishment and reward’! Punishment and reward conditions people into behaviours, stifles creativity, reduces feedback and suggestions and encourages people to hide mistakes or problems, even to cheat the figures (otherwise they get punished). Punishment and reward is a very blunt and undiscriminating instrument – it can easily punish good behaviour and reward bad behaviour (think bankers bonuses here!).

Consequences must be carefully design: do people know the purpose of what they are doing, be committed to it, be able to monitor their work to achieve it and be able to adapt and improve things intelligently to achieve the desired outcomes?

Further Reading:

Deming, W. E. (1994). The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education (2nd ed.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Center
for Advanced Engineering Study.

Kohn, A. (1986). No Contest: The Case against Competition. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Komaki, Judith L. ; Collins, Robert L. ; Penn, Pat  (1982) The role of performance antecedents and consequences in work motivation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 1982, Vol.67(3), pp.334340