Trust. Empowerment. For the really good folks: Just get out of their way (and have good channels of communication so that it's clear they're not utterly going off the rails).
Having people continually worry if they're going to be punished will make your org a hopeless mess. Supplying people with free snackies and flexible hours without giving them freedom won't make them work harder, it'll just give them a sense of entitlement.
If you recall who he is, let us know.
Employee incentives and motivation is not a one-size-fits-all optimization problem. It depends on the company, on the team, on what they're working on, etc.
Trust begets trust. This will beget none. Is it any wonder your employees are being mediocre when you don't trust and empower them to be anything else?
Not every company can afford to hire the very best, but you don't need to. Good management will strive to improve the systems (including the human systems, the learning systems, and the motivational systems) which empower your employees to work better, and for your quality to improve. Traditional (read: negative or carrot-and-stick type) motivational tactics almost all have complex and difficult-to-measure complications which do more harm than good.
See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Edwards_Deming#Key_principle... - and follow them. Designed for factories, but applicable to all management of all work. It's counter to the standard American idea of the employee-employer relationship, so extremely difficult to adapt to, but it is based on behavioral science, psychology, and statistical methods and should be regarded as basic truth. Start there and base your ideas about management on facts.
Even so, you are correct that there's no one size fits all management strategy for every individual and every situation. Holding such a view is a sure fire route to failure, typically. If managing were as easy as consulting a lookup table for the correct policy to apply then we wouldn't need human beings with lots of experience to do it would we?
What if there was something that could motivate them to get better?
So ultimately if you could motivate them to be better, then by definition they would be mediocre performers.
Based on my personal experience, I would not be surprised if you were to show me a study that found a strong correlation between being internally motivated and being considered a star performer.
Besides, by definition, most of your employees will be average. Otherwise the average would shift. Focus on bringing the whole bell curve up by improving your systems and your management, rather than on terms you use for individuals. You're better off optimizing your company and your management to handle this diversity, since it's a natural result of a sample.
For example, the Ivy League colleges suffer rampant grade inflation due to these high-achieving students not being able to cope with getting less-than-perfect grades. This poor coping is a form of 'low achievement' that drives other 'low achievement' behaviors: reduced course load, dropping out, switching to less rigorous majors, etc.
But it's not that Theory Y is necessarily "better". It depends on tons of different variables. And there have been plenty more theories after X and Y...
tl;dr: banned from Reddit
Specifically Theory Z - which can probably be summed up as "some combination of both X and Y"
If, as management, you are ignoring your employees, you aren't doing your job well.
Negative attention can produce short term positive results, because the employee acquires focus. Long term, employees with self-respect will leave. If you can replace them with a robot, you should do that ASAP.
Positive attention can produce both short and long term positive results, but positive attention which is not earned will be converted into negative attention when the employee figures out you are not sincere. Don't be a hypocrite.
Peter Gibbons: The thing is, Bob, it's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care.
Bob Porter: Don't... don't care?
Peter Gibbons: It's a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don't see another dime, so where's the motivation? And here's something else, Bob: I have eight different bosses right now.
Bob Slydell: I beg your pardon?
Peter Gibbons: Eight bosses.
Bob Slydell: Eight?
Peter Gibbons: Eight, Bob. So that means that when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That's my only real motivation is not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.
Assuming their model is even correct (I didn't see an attempt to test the model itself in this paper) that would mean jobs which are not associated with easy theft would not benefit from getting the big brother treatment.
But that's just my evaluation based on skimming it.
Some thrive on open-ended projects, some thrive with bite-sized chunks of work with quick feedback.
For me, as an employer, I tend to go look at their car. If it's a mess inside, then I tend to lump them in the "needs quick feedback" category.
Now I'm not even sure I want to clean up my car inside.
"Bull Cyclone once said to Tommy Atkins, a player who became a career Marine, 'Tommy, there are two kinds of young men—those you have to kick in the pants to get their potential and those you have to pat on the back. If you, as a leader, make a mistake, you've done a great injustice. So be very careful and decide as accurately as you can whether to kick or to pat.'"
And restaurants where the management feels the need to install anti-theft systems, couldn't productivity increases be management being free to focus on other aspects of the business? Or thieves being caught or deciding to go elsewhere?
And is the restaurant a hotbed of creativity worthy of examination? And what were the longterm effects on employee and customer happiness?
Any business can probably be made to perform better in the short run. What is the long term effect of a change is a more important question.
I assume that this would apply in other industries as well.
Energy's partly responsible. But there's a more important reason that NoDak didn't suffer at all during the recession: its publicly-owned State Bank. It remained sane and stable and crime-free while those traits were rare in the other 49 states. Check it.
The way I see it none of those two items are what makes employee's work harder.
Workers work harder in a recession. No big surprise. But I fail to see a clear link between a recession and "punishment or pampering".
The one is a general climate which makes you value your job more, and the other is an act of relationship between you and your employer. It's not at all clear whether punishment or pampering is more effective at making you value your job (or your employer) more.
I would suspect that a more valuable line of approach than looking at recession statistics (who's going to manufacture a recession to get their employees to stay?) would be to ask a parent of children whether to use the carrot of the stick. They would probably point out that:
1)All their children are different and respond differently
2)Both negative and positive feedback are needed, but at different times, and in complicated ways.
Edit: clarity of language
It focuses on how incentives affect the efficiency of creative jobs.
Technological and information processes are difficult to measure even in the best cases. As systems theorist Dennis Meadows notes, there are simple problems, in which solutions track monotonically better, and complex problems, in which the long-run preferred solution presents costs and negative growth in initial phases. We're willing to accept this for short-term projects with well-established trajectories: a new business launch, building or infrastructure construction. It's much more difficult to accept and sell such approaches where the problem space is novel, where there's little experience with it, where progress isn't particularly visible, and/or the timelines are long (Meadows' principle work has been in the area of resource and population limits, which expresses all of these characteristics).
My experience and observations are that:
- People and organizations both prefer stability and predictability. If I don't know from day to day that I'll have a job, that my door badge will work (among the reasons I find them psychically deadening, and I've heard similar views voiced unprompted by others -- "well, I've still got a job" as they entered the building), my productivity will suffer. Much of the shift of pressure in the past 40 years or so has been of risk from organizations onto individuals.
- Consistency in feedback helps. This is difficult with complex systems, and devising good metrics can be difficult. I've often provided harsh feedback for systems I use (of late, Google+, though it's annoying me less, today, GNOME in another H/N story). Though I'm doing so as someone outside the control structure of the organizations providing the service. It's one thing to take criticism from someone who can choose to stay or walk away, it's another when it comes from someone who can tell you to walk. One of the interesting aspects of Free Software development is that it very often divorces the technical criticism and workflow from employment. A kernel developer can hop from job to job, and still do the same work. They can be harshly criticized by Linus or others on LKML, but those people have no ability to fire the developer, only to make a decision to accept or not accept submissions.
- Organizational sanity helps. However (see my first point) organizations which themselves operate in high-risk environments are often poorly structured to be able to shield their employees from those pressures (and if you find yourself with management who succeeds in doing this, you've struck gold). Returning to Meadows' work, one challenge we're all facing are decreasing margins -- there was much more room for error in the 1950s - 1970s, it's vastly thinner now.
- I've had some experience working with children, and one of my observations was that giving them a fair amount of latitude, but very clear boundaries, seemed to maximize engagement, learning, independence, and discipline. The first time I really had to crack the whip I was amazed at how little chastisement went a long way (it was an effort not to slip while delivering my lecture). And it served to establish boundaries.
"Fair but firm" is what guides me. It doesn't work always, but it's a pretty good start.