What Motivates You: Money or Recognition

A few days ago, a member of the employee committee asked me how would I like the management to appreciate my good work. The options were – monetary bonus, a gift card for dinner for two at a nice restaurant, recognition for my work in employee meeting or others. My choice was very clear – recognition in all employee meeting. I don’t know why but they were surprised!

 Not that I don’t want money, most of us mere mortals would like some extra cash in our bank and so do I. Still I chose recognition because I believe it is the best way for acknowledging my efforts. Well another reason is that I knew they were not talking of big money. Nothing like notorious investment banking bonuses; software companies are generally stingy on cash. I was wondering that even if I was offered big money, would I have still opted for recognition as the most valuable employee? I think I would have.

I recently read a survey of Harvard MBAs about what will they choose between money or respect from fellow employees. As surprising it may seem but more than half chose the latter option.  Aren’t we driven by appreciation right from the beginning? My five-year old will read, switch off the TV, or do many otherwise boring things for a small reward such as a candy, toy or a sleepover at a friend’s place. However, I have seen him pushing himself to limit for appreciation. Last night, he played his first piano streak without looking at his book. We clapped and praised him for his efforts and today he was eager to go to his piano class. Moreover, he practiced many times last night on his own, a routine that otherwise is an ordeal for my wife. I am sure no candy or toy could motivate him as much.

I guess schools have already mastered this act. Class toppers are recognized and made into heroes. That is a great motivation for them to continue to do well. The corporate world also has learned the trick and hence instituted titles and employee recognition programs. Of course, employees like me validate their policiesJ. Hopefully I am not alone to fall for it but I still wonder why the employee committee was surprised by my choice. Well, they never disclosed the bonus!


4 responses to this post.

  1. I am starting to love your blog, I just whizzed past a couple topics but it has got me gripped. I am a start up too and I felt like our thoughts were similar on most topics!!


  2. Posted by Michelle E. on February 20, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    Very interesting topic. Money is money! period. You get to keep it and control how you use it or save it. recognition sounds exciting, but when I think about it, I’m the only one who will remember it long term, because it feeds MY ego. Everyone else will forget in short time. I’d take the money unless the recognition will guarantee me a higher paying situation.


  3. Posted by Kiwi on September 3, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    I don’t think it is an either/or situation. I feel recognition is a much more longer term strategy for growth and higher pay than short term cash. Recognition leads to visibility among peers and senior management. When the next round promotions are being considered being remembered for doing something of value to the company goes a long way in putting you higher up in the priority list. My vote… recognition any day.


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