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A talk about motivation

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Transcripts

So, we think we know how to motivate people, right? Offer them a reward. Do this and you'll get this. Do this faster, earn more money. Do this better than everyone else, here's a promotion. We offer incentives when we want people to do things. We do it at work, at school, even at home with our kids. Tidy your room and you can watch TV.

But when social psychologists test whether incentives work, they get surprising results. Sam Glucksberg, from Princeton University, America, set people a problem to solve and told them he was going to time them to see how long they took. Then he put them in two groups. He offered one group a reward for finishing fast. Five dollars for anyone finishing in the top 25 per cent and 20 dollars for the person who finished the fastest of all. To the other group he offered no incentive, but he told them he was going to use their times to calculate an average time.

The first group, the ones with the reward, solved the problem faster, you'd think, right? Well, no, they actually took three and a half minutes longer than the group who just thought they were being timed. Incentive didn't work. In fact, it made them slower. This experiment has been repeated, with the same results, many times. But in business we still offer bonuses, promotions and rewards to staff.

That's fine if we want them to do something simple, like chop wood. We'll pay you more if you chop the wood faster. An incentive works then. But if we want someone to do something complex, something creative, something where they have to think, rewards don't work. They might even have the opposite result, and make people perform worse. Another study, by Dan Ariely, showed that the bigger the reward, the worse the subjects performed on a complex task. The reward made them focus so hard on the result that they couldn't think creatively any more.

And this all matters because more and more simple jobs will become automated. We'll be left with creative, problem-solving jobs that computers will never do. And we need to find a way to motivate people to do those jobs when we've proved the traditional incentives don't work.

So what does work? Giving your workers freedom; freedom to work on the things they want to work on, freedom to choose when, where and how they work. Want to work from home three days a week, get up late and work into the night instead? Fine. Just do the job well. And evidence shows people who choose the way they work get results. Companies that give employees time during the week to work on things that interest them and are not part of their regular job achieve amazing things. Some of the big tech companies are good examples of this, with ping-pong tables and areas to relax in …

Discussion

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Language level

Upper intermediate: B2

Comments

Hello hamo0ody,

The final paragraph says that people work best when they can choose how to work.

So what does work? Giving your workers freedom; freedom to work on the things they want to work on, freedom to choose when, where and how they work. Want to work from home three days a week, get up late and work into the night instead? Fine. 

In other words, people should be able to choose. Starting later and working into the night is one possibility, not something that everyone should do. It is given as an example, not a solution for everyone. Therefore the claim that people 'always' work best in this way is not true.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I have completed the lesson for 'A Talk About Motivation' . The level I chose was Upper Intermediate B2.

What is motivating me in my job is to receive good words from my management . also the incentive can motivate me too.

for me it can be higher salary,good looking places with an interesting design and the creativity potential that the job has.also when i do things that have engaging audiences feedback (like making games) i am more motivated.

In my opinion the best incentive to do a good performance is to have a person that has a big leadership and that can direct your decision in doing something at work. I'am thinking to a boss, a chief or someone else that has an ascendent on you and that is a good example for all the members of a working group, something like a spirituale guide, an example to follow, not only at work, but generally also in your life.

How can I download the audio track?

Hello Sabiya,

I'm afraid the audio files are not available for download. You can, of course, listen as often as you like on the page.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

In my previous job as a aftersalesmanager in automotive they offered me a fix salary and in addition a bonus in growth revenue. After the first year I was obligated to ask after the first evaluation. Within the first five months there was a revenue increase of 5 %, in the sixth month our top mechanic felt sick and he was out for eight months caused by a hernia with no replacement on the workfloor. My bonus for the whole year was gone ! Now I'm looking for a new job with a better agreement.

What motivates you in your job or studies?

In my job, good working environment, good salary, good job nature motivates me a lot to work harder and even to do overtime. Also a job of my hobby and a job is important for my lifetime career is a lot matter for me as well.

In my studies, I like the subject, stories, abstracts and thesis are giving me greater knowledge and useful for my life. I also like to achieve higher grades and distinctions in my studies as well, and I believe that is motivating me a lot to study harder to achieve greater results.

When I was student, the best thing that motivated me when I work was the fear of failure. When I think that I’ll fail if I don’t work, I am more and more motivated. On the other hand, I like to be free in my choice, It’s bit difficult for me when I am constrained to work on a thing that I don’t like, I am less motivate.

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