The carrot or the stick?
How do you get the best out of your employees? Do you nurture them slowly, allowing them to make mistakes, and find their own path to development? Do you drop them in at the deep end, and let them show you whether they will sink or swim? The carrot, the stick, or a little bit of both?
Some sectors – for example the financial sector – often employ the stick approach. They set employees up as competitors from day one and ensure that a fear of failure runs across the entire organisation, so that everyone attempts to work harder and faster than their colleagues.
In other sectors – particularly the public sector – the polar opposite approach is taken. Carrot firmly in hand, employees are mentored and coaxed by their managers towards achieving the organisational goals set out for them. Multiple chances are given through support plans, coaching, and friendly interventions, to help everyone achieve their potential.
Proponents of the stick method would argue that it provides the ‘edge’ that employees need to be successful. However working in this kind of high-pressure, low-care environment is also associated with burnout, which is bad for the individual but equally bad for the organisation, as they have to start at the bottom again with a replacement. Carrot-givers know that staff on the whole do better when they are in a supportive environment which rewards them for identifying and addressing their own weaknesses instead of hiding them from their ‘competitors.’ However, if you are dealing with someone who has no interest in developing themselves, it can be frustrating for everyone around them, leading to resentment within the workforce.
Taking a balanced approach, with clear parameters and fair sanctions for underperformance (stick) but encouragement, praise and reward for development (carrot) should help businesses get the best out of their employees. This is NOT the same as making your staff compete against each other in a toxic environment and then ‘rewarding’ them with a bonus for surviving! Instead it is about encouraging staff to fulfil their true potential without driving themselves into the ground, which leaves you with happy, motivated and long-serving staff who are invested in your organisation’s success.