Motivate Your Employees

It’s old school thinking—if you want your employees to be more motivated, put a carrot in front of them. The logic goes like this:

I have a reward for you. But you can’t have this great gift until you do X, Y, and Z. Only once you achieve the results I expect, you may have the gift. Which, by its nature, isn’t really a gift since you need to earn it. In fact, it’s just another piece of your compensation that’s yours to lose.

Let me throw some new school thinking at you. Putting a carrot out in front of people, sets them up for failure. The best they can do is achieve the objectives you set and get what you promised them. But that’s not a sure thing. There is a chance they won’t get the  reward because the odds are often greater for failure than success.

That carrot you’re waving around? You might as well be shouting out, “Look at the cool thing you won’t be getting! Now work harder.”

Trying to motivate employees with rewards as carrots is working against you, and even undermines the likelihood of success. Your employees will work feverishly for the first few days, struggle to keep the pace for a week, and return to their normal patterns. Instead, give rewards unexpectedly and after the fact.

Still set expectations for performance, but  never promise a reward. Occasionally, once your employees achieve the goals, give them an unexpected reward. This will reinforce the behaviors, while avoiding the danger of carrots.


Mike Michalowicz

MIKE MICHALOWICZ (pronounced mi-KAL-o-wits) started his first business at the age of 24, moving his young family to the only safe place he could afford – a retirement building. With no experience, no contacts and no savings, he systematically bootstrapped a multimillion-dollar business. Then he did it again. And again. Now he is doing it for other entrepreneurs. Mike is the CEO of Provendus Group. He is also a former small-business columnist for The Wall Street Journal; MSNBC’s business makeover expert; a keynote speaker on entrepreneurship; and the author of the cult classic book The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. His newest book, The Pumpkin Plan, has already been called “the next E-Myth!” For more information, visit