Articles

December 2018 – Question of the Month

December 06, 2018 - By Wendy Lambourne, Director, MA Industrial and Organisation Psychology Registered Psychologist with SA Medical & Dental Council

Question of the Month: What is the difference between a “carrot” and a “reward”?

Answer:  The difference is not the money. In both instances, there is a handover of money. The difference lies in the reason WHY the money is handed over.

In the case of the “carrot”, the reason is to stimulate an improvement in performance. The motive is therefore a “getting” one. It is essentially “giving to get” – if you give me (more output / better quality / faster), I will give you X units of currency. It is a “giving to get” more in the future, which incites a haggle in which both parties seek to maximise their own interests in the exchange.

In the case of the “reward” the reason is different. The reward is a response to what has been given. It is a demonstration of gratitude or appreciation for contribution made. A reward is not a “giving to get”, it an unconditional giving.

A reward does not incite a haggle. Rather, the gratitude demonstrated unleashes a generosity in the recipient of the reward, leading to a willingness to continue to give or to give even more in the future.

“Carrots” cultivate or appeal to greed. Rewards, on the other hand, elicit generosity.

Wendy Lambourne
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