Monday, May 7, 2018

Money is probably a poor motivator

Ron Riggio's most recent blog post touches on some reasons why money is a poor motivator in work environments. Any of us who are public service employees (which includes those of us working in any level of education) can relate. We're not on the sort of reinforcement schedule that would lead to continuous hard work (i.e., variable ratio), but instead work on some sort of salary or fixed contract basis. More pertinent for those of us who work as educators, the organizations employing us are usually underfunded to begin with and are not going to have the means to offer more than a 2% raise, if we're lucky. If the threshold for a pay raise leading to a desired change in work performance is around 5% to 7%, forget it. I have a pretty good idea about the budget situation where I work, and I get it. Really the most pertinent point is that many of us who become educators at any level did so for motivations that are at best tangentially related to money. Assuming that basic needs and lifestyle needs are met well enough, the motivators are often ones having more to do with the meaningfulness of our work, or some basic perks that don't cost a dime to offer. The reality is that I find what I do worthwhile and meaningful. If I wanted to get rich, I would have taken one of the career paths suggested by my parents (well-intentioned as they may have been at the time). Neither of those paths were ones that got me fired up. I doubt I would have found much happiness nor made much of an impact on others' lives to the extent that I do currently. Of course, don't get me wrong. If my employer gets sufficiently funded to offer massive pay raises, I won't turn that down. But if that is not in the cards, I won't necessarily lose much sleep. I've noted before that the gig isn't a bad one: reasonably flexible hours, plenty of flexibility in terms of how to go about classroom management and research, and a department staffed with people who are like a second family to me (and money cannot buy those types of relationships). Basically, figure out what makes your employees tick and reinforce accordingly. Money cannot be ignored (we have to survive and thrive after all), but a lot of non-monetary reinforcers will work just fine for many workers.

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