Motivation vs. Cash

Read Bob and Anne’s column in the McHenry Business Journal

From June 2007 McHenry Business Journal –


Olson: Motivation can be found outside of cash

People should be paid based on their performance at work.

They should be rewarded when they do good work. They also should be recognized for it.

A lot of people agree on those statements. But there is a school of thought that says that they can be counterproductive to running a business.

The logic goes like this: Rewards meant to motivate workers to excel end up becoming the only reason that they care about doing a good job. The reward ends up supplanting people’s pride in their work as the driving force behind them.

Bob Sandidge, co-owner of CreativeCore in Algonquin, is among those who subscribe to this theory.

Sandidge, a corporate communications veteran whose new company does consulting work for small businesses in the area, said that people often say that money is the most important part of their jobs – but that doesn’t make it true.

“People are working to fulfill other needs,” Sandidge said. “To produce, to create, contribute, build relationships, because they like their companies.”

Making money part of workers’ daily consciousness isn’t healthy, Sandidge said.

Some studies have shown that those of us who truly are motivated first and foremost by money, influence, and prestige tend to be more unhappy than their coworkers. And anyone who’s had unhappy coworkers knows what a drag they can be.

Giving employees monetary rewards and bonuses isn’t the only – or best – way to motivate them, Sandidge said. A lot of times, they already are motivated. They just need the right setting to succeed.

“Sometimes money clouds our vision of management because we’re working with the stereotype that we need more incentives if we’re going to get more out of people,” Sandidge said. “What really gets more productivity out of people is giving them more to do and letting them do what they want to do.”

That doesn’t mean that employers can’t recognize good work with monetary or other prizes. But the employees should not know that they’re coming in advance, Sandidge said. In other words, give workers unexpected gifts instead of promised rewards.

Maybe this theory wouldn’t work in every workplace. Some salespeople might prefer to work on commission, for example.

But it makes sense when you look at someone such as Jack Moos, who has run Happy Jack’s Sandwiches and Ice Cream Shoppe in McHenry since 1977.

Reporter Liz Wolgemuth wrote about the 30th anniversary of Moos’ business in Friday’s Northwest Herald. In it, Moos talked about how he was happy with his walk to work every day.

Moos said he never franchised the business, even though he said he could have made millions. He was happy enough with one store – even if it did mean working seven days a week.

Maybe you can get someone to do most anything if it pays enough. But for them to be happy and motivated like Jack takes a little more.

• Eric Olson is the Northwest Herald’s business editor. Reach him at (815) 526-4554, or by e-mail at