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  • Writer's pictureAdil Malia

Marshmallows can Demotivate

Often, leaders randomly promise rewards, incentives & benefits to their people upon their achieving certain predetermined targets, performance milestones or their reflecting certain desirable behaviour.

However, thereafter these leaders become conveniently amnesic. They remember but outwardly pretend that they have forgotten that the promise needs to be fulfilled.

Well it does not matter, they feel. Small thing! Isn't continuing to get their main salary the larger elephant of motivation, they lament.

How sadly mistaken these leaders are. What the mind believes as 'bartered entitlement' is never conditioned to motivate. I work 30 days a month and you pay me the agreed compensation, well that does not motivate. That is conditioned entitlement. Does not motivate additional behaviour. Big elephant or baby elephant.

Small as it may seem, the Leaders fail to comprehend the two emotional states - dejection & deception that such non fulfillment of promises trigger. 'RELIABLE ENVIRONMENT' is a deemed precondition for performance in the minds of your employees. Non-fulfillment of promises destroys that. The consequences of this destruction has far reaching implications.

Social scientists like Walter Mischel devised the Marshmallow test. Children were each give one Marshmallow each with an instruction that if they did not eat the first marshmallow in fifteen minutes after being temptingly given the same, would qualify them to get another marshmallow. Certainly some smart self-regulated kids resist and wait to win the second marshmallow. Others (greedy and every hungry like me !!!), get too tempted, cannot wait , need early gratification and thus do not mind losing the second marshmallow. After all, in the long run we are all dead. Who knows the next 15 minutes !!!

However, if the second marshmallow was without reason, not given to all the self-regulated children who delayed their gratification in hope of a reward, the 'reliable environment' test would fail. Such children would first get dejected and then feel deceived. Thereafter they will never trust the environment.

A big cost for the baby-elephant motivator that you Mr. Leader may have promised but not fulfilled. Marshmallows can demotivate if not given, when due!

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