Using Rewards to Influence Behavior essay

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The article under research argues that a wrong reward system can unwittingly encourage undesirable behavior. My favorite example from the article is about politics; it portrays the behavior of politicians and voters during the campaign period. The author states that there are two types of goals: official and operative goals. Official goals are vague and lack clear plans on how they will be achieved. Operative goals are specific and state how they will be achieved. In theory, voters want leaders who can deliver on operative goals. However, politicians are encouraged to pledge official goals because they are general and, therefore, acceptable to a bigger audience. This makes politics a faulty reward system because, by electing politicians who promise official goals, voters encourage undesirable behavior among leaders, thus pursuing low quality goals. Consequently, voters unwittingly punish candidates who speak of real issues (at the operative level) and outline ways in which they will raise the funds needed to implement development policies. Another example is when parents pay teachers to teach remedial lessons so as to improve students’ grades. The extra money that teachers earn this way may discourage them from teaching well during normal classes. This is necessary to make students perform poorly and compel parents to pay for remedial teaching.

People with specific and challenging goals can and often do perform better than those with general ones. This is because having a specific goal makes concentration easier while challenges encourage hard work. For example, athletes perform better because they have a specific goal, that of winning a race. The challenge to compete with and overcome others in the race encourages one to practice daily and endure difficult training.

People always tend to do activities that attract a desirable reward and avoid those that do not. Consequently, money is a strong motivator because it is desirable. A good example is an increase of employees’ daily wages for reporting to work punctually. Applied this way, money can discourage employees from reporting to work late. 

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