Motivation – Carrot and Stick

Summary: “Carrot and Stick Motivational Methods Only Generate Compliance or Defiance.”

Many common forms of extrinsic motivation fall into the category of carrot-and-stick, or control, strategies. With such strategies, you reward desired behavior and punish undesired behavior. Admittedly control strategies such as these can, and often do, generate short-term results in terms of generating the behavior you desire. However, you can expect one of two outcomes anytime you attempt to control people: compliance or defiance.

Defiance generates immediate and long-term problems. Compliance can, and often does, generate short-term gains; but it can also generate long-term problems. Although carrot and stick strategies are among the most widely used techniques for stimulating desired behavior in others, they are among the least effective strategies in terms of long-term success.

Here are some of the main problems associated with reward (carrot) strategies: if the rewards stop, the behavior stops; it often takes increasing rewards over time to sustain the behavior; rewards can convert intrinsic motivation into extrinsic motivation (people go from enjoying doing something, to doing it for the rewards); and compliance often triggers resentment and passive-aggressive behavior.

So-called motivational strategies based on punishment or threats of punishment (stick) rarely lead to anything lasting or desirable. The best you can usually hope for in this case is temporary compliance followed by resentment and various forms of passive-aggressive sabotage. Carrot/stick strategies are certainly not recommended if you want to help people joyfully participate in life.

If you are willing to consider alternatives to carrot/stick strategies that will likely produce better results, see the postings on Self-Determination Theory, Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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