Since being published in Compensation and Benefits Review in 2009 “On the Folly of Rewarding Team Performance, While Hoping for Teamwork“, by Kimberly K. Merriman, has become one of the top downloaded articles of the year. To supply the demand for all whom inquire about the challenges in motivating teamwork by providing team based rewards in the workplace, the author has provided a brief reflection on the article:
I wrote On the Folly of Rewarding Team Performance, While Hoping for Teamwork in the spirit of a classic 1975 ‘reward folly’ article by Steven Kerr. The underlying theme is similar: Reward systems are easy to foul up and often result in unintended consequences. I focused on the unique challenges associated with team rewards.
Since writing the article, I’ve given a radio interview and many public talks on the topic, and published a companion piece in Harvard Business Review. A surprising finding of this research to many people, me included, is the strong negative emotion evoked by team reward inequity even when the dollars at stake are small. Employees in my sample often acted on this emotion by leaving their job. Ironically, these violations of reward expectations generally occurred while managers thought they were motivating teamwork.
Incentives are like guns in that they must be aimed carefully. My article provides ways for managers (or anyone, for that matter) to improve their aim when rewarding teams.