Sunday, 27 May 2012

Motivating Madness: Poorly Rewarding Employees

Welcome back to Funding the Kryptonite, a blog that will take a look at comic book super villains and discuss them from a business perspective.

I want to talk about incentivizing people today, and how it is important to not just offer the high level benefits to employees, such as money and stock options, but to also be willing to give quality of life benefits. This is especially important when it comes to Order of the Stick antagonist Xykon, and how the benefits, and drawbacks, of his lichdom has caused problems for him and his business partners.

Let’s Introduce Our Players:

Up first, we have our main character Xykon. Born a sorcerer, he’s going through life doing the standard evil badguy type things. He even ruthlessly murders someone for a crown just because it looks cool!

Our second player is a goblin by the name of Redcloak. He’s got the ability to cast divine spells and has need of a sorcerer to help him with a ritual that will unleash a god-killing machine known as the Snarl.

In standard bad guy fashion, they team up together. As far as Redcloak tells Xykon, it’s just a ritual to unleash a whole lot of power. In reality, Redcloak is just trying to use Xykon to do his end of the ritual in order for Redcloak’s personal plans to succeed. However, in order to reach the gate of power needed for the ritual, they go up against an elvish druid who has poisoned the air in such fashion as to prevent their spellcasting abilities. In order to circumvent that, Xykon agrees to be turned into a lich (powerful undead spellcasting monster) so that he no longer needs to breathe and thus regains his spellcasting abilities. It works and they’re off to the races.

Evil Rewards:

Here’s where I want to talk about what does and doesn’t work with employee motivation, and it comes down to intrinsic motivators vs. extrinsic motivators. The latter is things that people give to you in a reward structure (bonuses, stock options, etc…) and the former is things that come internally and are self-satisfying (sense of personal mastery, self-esteem, independence, etc…).

That’s not to say that extrinsic elements aren’t important, certainly no one wants to work for free, but they are only important up to a certain point. If someone feels underpaid and unrewarded for their work compared to the industry and their colleagues and their own skill sets then there is a problem. However, past that point, those types of motivators are not as effective, or as powerful, as intrinsic motivators are.

The Little Things:

Intrinsic motivators can be the big ones, like being recognized as an expert in your field or being giving a self-governing work schedule, but the little ones matter to. Small perks that make you feel appreciated are incredibly important as well. That’s where the Xykon/Redcloak partnership breaks down.

Earlier in the story, the duo celebrates their partnership of evil at a demonic coffee shop. The coffee there is atrocious beyond belief, an utterly vile concoction. Xykon, still human, admits to loving the coffee for how terrible it is. By drinking it, it reminds him of all the excellent cups of coffee he’s had as he desperately tries to avoid thinking about that actual cup. Upon their return to the shop after Xykon has been turned into a lich, he tries a cup and flips out upon realizing that he can no longer taste it.

Redcloak has given Xykon a huge boost in power and other extrinsic motivators and Xykon sure does like power. But, at the same time, taking away some of the intrinsic motivators (being able to enjoy a cup of godawful coffee) is enough to offset the power gain and set him off into “completely off his rocker” crazyland.

Closing comments:

You see a lot of this in life, where people start off wanting all the extrinsic rewards possible. Investment bankers are notoriously bad for this, sacrificing everything for a huge salary and bonuses. Burnout and turnover is extremely high as people realize that they prefer being able to have vacation time, be appreciated by their bosses, and get to actually see their kids once in a while (if they’ve managed to get any while working so much).

So remember, there’s more to a job than just what you’re given for it. There’s also how it can make you feel.

Final Rating: Bad business!

But when you drink a bad cup of coffee, you remember every good cup you ever drank. And at my advanced age, that’s a helluva lot of good coffee” –Xykon (Order of the Stick: Start of Darkness)
Thank you for reading and please hit me up with your comments.

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