Bob Nelson Refutes Dan Pink’s Philosophy on Employee Motivation

by: Nichole Gunn October 20, 2010

According to a cover story in Corporate Meetings and Incentives magazine, author David Pink warns that effective employee reward and incentive strategies are changing. Pink believes traditional motivation strategies are no longer effective and may even “undermine employee motivation, creativity, and the achievement of desired goals.”

In a rebuttal to that story, Bob Nelson, Ph.D. and author of ‘1001 Ways to Reward Employees’, jumped in to defend traditional motivation strategies. He advises readers not to take Pink’s words to heart; he cautions not to discard rewards and incentives that have proved to be successful strategies for many years.

Nelson, one of the leading authorities on employee motivation, said Pink’s “interview included some advice that I consider to be misinformed and misleading,"

As an example, Nelson noted Pink’s views that ‘Rewards can extinguish intrinsic motivation.' Nelson explained that this is not the case. If an organization’s leaders strive to determine what their employees want, and take that knowledge to “systematically reinforce and reward desired behaviors and results, that serves to reinforce their intrinsic motivation, not extinguish it.”

Another point disputed was Pink’s definition of ‘reward’; Pink believes rewards focus on monetary incentives. Nelson argues that research clearly shows that most types of rewards and recognition are likely to be non-financial, and that money is not a great motivational tool.

One of several “studies cited by Nelson is the National Study of the Changing Workforce, which is conducted every five years by the Families and Work Institute.” The workforce information provided on the organization’s website is obtained through surveys that represent large national samples of employed workers.