Big Think Associate Editor Jason Gots tells a story about the shortcomings of carrot-and-stick management strategies:
When I was a kid, maybe 11 years old, my parents tried out a motivation trick on me and my sister. There were two empty jars in the kitchen. Each time one of us did something good, some number of macaroni would go into the jar – more for a big chore, like weeding the yard, fewer for something more trivial, like cleaning our rooms. There were lines on the jar representing different rewards. Fill the jar 1/4 way up and you could see a movie of your choice. Save up until the jar was full, and you'd get a new bike.
The system lasted about a month. Why? Because my sister and I – two smart-aleck kids – found it transparent, demeaning, and (therefore) totally demotivating.
Attempting to motivate grownup employees with bonuses on the one hand and reprimands on the other is similarly simplistic and doomed to failure. Modern management strategies, informed by psychology, take into account the complexities of human beings in an attempt to reconcile their individual needs with the needs of the organization as a whole. At worst, this results in half-hearted propaganda designed to make employees feel special. At best, it represents a fundamental shift toward a more human-centered way of doing business.