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Book Review: “Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations”

How do you motivate your employees to boost productivity? Studies show that offering monetary rewards can backfire.

“Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations” by Dan Ariely
c.2016, TED
$16.99 / $22.99 Canada
113 pages
 
The house won’t write its own check.
 
Car payments don’t happen by magic, food won’t drive to your doorstep, and decent clothing isn’t free. In short, bills won’t pay themselves – but are they the sole reason to go to work each day?  Author Dan Ariely says no, and in his new book “Payoff: the Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations,” he explains.
 
No matter where you get your paycheck or salary, the truth is that you are the boss of you. You make yourself get out of bed, eat well, disengage as needed, exercise, and stay motivated. In fact, says Dan Ariely, “we are all part-time motivators,” but to what extent?  Why do we endure tasks that “may appear on the surface to be thankless”?
 
To understand, you need to know that we humans are “driven” to seek meaning. You may think, for example, that retirement on a beach would be perfect, but you probably wouldn’t be happy for long. You need meaning, because the people with the most meaningful lives tend to be happiest.
 
So, back to motivation: how do you motivate your employees to, say, boost productivity? Studies show that offering monetary rewards can backfire. Unexpected prizes are high motivators – for awhile. Recognition works very well because “Acknowledgment is a kind of human magic…” and can keep employees engaged.
 
This all comes back to meaning: give employees a reason to believe that they’re valuable and not just some “cogs on a wheel,” and they feel more ownership toward their work. Put them in a meaningless cubicle or tell them that they’re just worker-bees, and you’ve squashed their motivation like a bug.
 
People tend to value things they’ve made, more than something someone else crafted – and that includes customers and product customization. Let employees feel some sort of investment toward and from you, and they’ll act more like part of the team. Know what’s measurable on the job, and don’t make the “uncountable… as if it were easily countable.” Look long-term. And always remember the importance of goodwill.
 
“Supporting it is easy,” says Ariely, “but destroying it is even easier.”
 
Remember that job you had where you never felt appreciated?  Remember how much you couldn’t wait to quit? That won’t happen in your business if you read “Payoff.”
 
It’s easy, as it turns out, to retain employees, so long as you can motivate them in ways that work for you both. Gone, says author Dan Ariely, are the days when a paycheck was the only reason for going to the office. Instead, researchers recognize that motivation and job enjoyment go hand-in-hand, and that the wise supervisor or business owner seeks both. Here, Ariely explains what motivation is and why it’s so “fragile,” and he shows how we can be motivated to do something we don’t like, and how that can ultimately become something worthwhile.
 
If your own get-up-and-go is gone, or if you’d like a surprisingly effective workplace enhancer, here’s the book you want. You’ll get a lot out of “Payoff,” so check it out.