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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Money as a Motivator

OK, the subject will be controversial. Money as a motivator. If you ask people what motivates them to work, they’d throw a bunch of different things much more often than they’d say about remuneration. Self-development options are evergreen here, but good atmosphere, top technologies, interesting products or well-organized processes are all mentioned more often than pure cash. By the way that’s one of my interview questions and, believe me, I hear “money” much, much less than I’d expect. Rob Walling presents quite a long list of different qualities which are valued more than money by developers. That’s first perspective.

Another one is pointing money actually does no good in the area of motivating people. David Carr in his post about money as a motivator shows a list of examples where money doesn’t really affect positively people’s work or even harm their attitude and, as a result, effectiveness. That’s other perspective.

Personally I strongly believe in non-monetary motivating techniques. “CEO’s handshake” followed by several words of praise can have much more impact than a payload of money. That’s another perspective.

Having said all of that, ask people if they’re willing to change the job for a better one in almost every aspect they can imagine. Better atmosphere, cooler technology, more interesting products and wide range of possibilities to self-develop. The only worse thing would be money. Few would follow. And if you leave aside those who are starting their own businesses you end up almost empty-handed.

Now, do another test – situation is the same but in the second job money is better, but e.g. atmosphere is worse. More candidates? What a surprise. Oh, is that really such a big surprise?

OK, where’s my point then? There are a few of them actually:

• Money alone doesn’t work very well when you want to add motivation over the standard effort.

• Money is very often used wrong. If it is so the result are usually opposite than intended.

• When used well, which is rather rare by the way, money can work as a motivator.

• Non-monetary motivation techniques are essential but they don’t substitute remuneration – they supplement money.

• Money is more important for people than they’d be willing to admit.

in: team management

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