This, Not Money, Motivates Americans to Work Harder

Chad Brooks, BusinessNewsDaily Contributor
August 8, 2012
This, Not Money, Motivates Americans to Work Harder

Trying to please co-workers is a stronger motivating factor than a high salary for some employees, new research shows.

The study by researchers at the University of Iowa found that a sense of belonging and attachment to a group of colleagues is a better motivator for some than money.

"Peer pressure is a strong motivating force, and workers' willingness to please people who mean something to them is often a stronger motivating force than financial rewards," said George Stewart, one of the study's authors and a professor of management and organizations.

To come to their conclusions, researchers examined how members of self-managed teams allotted pay raises for their peers. Using questionnaires, they asked the workers about their level of attraction to the team and their compensation, and asked their supervisors about the productivity of both individuals and teams.

Stewart said the study confirms prior research, which found that pleasing other people is a powerful motivating factor.

"We all have a social need to be accepted, to identify with a group and be a part of it," Stewart said. "So much so that peer pressure from team members is more effective than money in prompting strong performances from workers."

[Having Co-Workers Can Leads to Longer Life]

However, the researchers note this works only when team members get along.  The study found that when co-workers don't care for each other, appealing to team spirit as a motivating factor won't work because there is no team spirit to appeal to. 

It's then that money becomes the primary motivating factor to improve productivity, said Stephen Courtright, an assistant professor at Texas A&M University, who recently received his doctoral degree from Iowa and was a member of the research group.

"Teams perform better when there is social pressure from peers to perform well than when peers wave a carrot and stick," Courtright said. "However, the carrot and stick method works pretty well when team members just can't get along."

The study, "Peer-Based Control in Self-Managing Teams," was co-authored by Murray Barrick of Texas A&M University and published in a recent issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology.

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