Bonuses, Surprises and Motivation

Supposed you have $50 to spend on one of the people you lead. You want to bless them and help them stay motivated through the grind of the semester or the year.

What do you do with that money?

You could add it to their pay. They would appreciate it. A bonus.

But bonuses have a negligible impact on motivation. Small bonuses have an even smaller impact. Think about the past year. The federal government cut the payroll tax back a bit and we all had a little extra coming home in our pay. Did you notice it? Were you grateful? Did it make an impact for you?

Bonuses can actually have the opposite effect. They can become the new normal. People begin to anticipate them. Count on them. They make plans. Vacation or a new pool. They get angry if they don’t get a bonus. Remember Clark Griswold and his reaction to the “Jelly of the Month Club” bonus?

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do bonuses. Go for it.

I just think there’s something better you can do with $50, something that will produce more motivation and less entitlement.

Consider surprising your people. Take them out to a ridiculously nice lunch. Buy them crazy socks. Or their favorite hard-to-find movie. Or a really nice Bible. Create a memory. Manufacture a touchstone.

The science of human motivation tells us that people feel motivated at work when they feel known and appreciated. If you get one $50 bullet, try to hit that target.

What would you do to bless and motivate an employee if you had $50? Give me some ideas!

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