# 350: Managing Rewards

Taylor, Frederick Winslow (2011/1911). The Principles of Scientific Management, 72.

Story behind the Passage

Currently, I think a lot about the time after blogging. I mean, this has been part of my life for almost a year now. Will it be easier when I do not have to do this anymore? And, by the way, I never had to do this anyways. It was my self-set goal of blogging every day for a year and now I truly feel it is time to end the journey. Yes, there are still days when I desperately want to write about something. But then there are other days when there is so much to do and no topic at the top of my head and it feels like a burden to reflect on something. Well, I mean, “no topic” at all is not true, of course. I always think of stuff and then I write about one of these thoughts. And writing itself will never be a burden as long as I live. Still, what I simply want to say: An experiment like this one needs to end at some point — this is what experiments are all about.

Experiments are also about learning stuff, gaining new insights. Of course, that is true for me too but today is not the time to discuss this. What I want to discuss is Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management. When he first introduced scientific management, it was an experiment as well. And he literally turned the work place, the factory, into a lab by measuring the exact times of completing certain work tasks. This section about rewards shows a different facet of his philosophy which many people tend to overlook. They just see Taylor as this monster who focused solely on efficiency and exploiting people like robots. If you ever read the entire book, which I recommend, you will notice that he was a holistic thinker and he truly wanted to introduce a new philosophy, not just some tool for abusing workers to the max.

The rewards passage jumped at me today because I thought about how to reward myself for blogging every day. What will I do with the blog posts anyway? I do not write for rewarding myself, actually, apart from the joy of writing. I write for those who read it. At least, this is what my head tells me. So, how can I reward myself by allowing people to read my blog? And, on a different note, Taylor in general is also quite a good fit because my daily writing is quite comparable to the work on the assembly belt. And I can definitely say I maximized on speed and efficiency and technique in my blogging factory. So, let us take a look at what Taylor suggests about rewards.

My Learnings

“The average workman must be able to measure what he has accomplished and clearly see his reward at the end of each day if he is to do his best.” Well, let us not debate what exactly the “average workman” might mean from today’s perspective. Clearly, back in Taylor’s time, he was talking about factory workers. We still have them today, of course, but we also have many other workers who are doing repetitive, administrative tasks in the office or somewhere else. Of course, “average” does not refer to the “value” of a person. It refers to the “mass” of people in more or less average jobs with respect to education, income, and skills.

Now, having said this, I do not think that this statement about rewards is important only for the average person. It is important for all of us because we are all human beings. You might argue that the more “superior” you are in your professional role, the more are you able to think ahead and aim at long-term goals. But, really, even as the most long-term planner, short-term rewards will be needed along the way. There is enough research on this in behavioral psychology, i.e., evidence on which personalities are able to resist short-term benefits in favor of long-term rewards. Still, rewards are necessary.

And the interesting part of this sentence is that Taylor uses the verb “seeing.” In other words, the worker needs to have a clear image of what he/she will get in return for hard work — nothing vague or intangible. It needs to be clear and more or less guaranteed, i.e., realistically attainable. In order to do his part for actually getting the reward, measurability needs to be ensured. Measurability always requires certain units and most likely comparative standards/benchmarks which serve as orientation. In other words: Just working for the sake of working or for inner satisfaction — what one calls intrinsic motivation nowadays — would not stand the test for Taylor.

To be honest, when now thinking about my blog and many other things I have done in my life, motivation really just stemmed from the competitive side in me — the part of my personality which likes to play, bet, and achieve goals. These can be self-set or imposed by others. Whatever it is, if the commitment has been made, then there is no stopping and no giving up. It simply is not an option. I would have to lose consciousness or be seriously ill to not pursue the goal, no matter how stupid, profane, or irrelevant it might be to others. The only short-term reward is knowing for myself that I am on my way of achieving the larger goal. That is all there is and it suffices most of the time.

Maybe this is a sign that I am not an “average” workwoman anymore. But I think, the non-average people are just more willing and able at suppressing their human instincts. It is a conscious decision to neglect short-term rewards by aiming at something less tangible and long-term. And, as we all know, in many cases, life does not pay you back. You work hard, save money “for later,” then you get sick the next day, and everything else is history, including your long-term goals and rewards. All you appreciate from then onwards is every tiny moment of not being in pain. That is the truth of life. Let us face it and I am happy I learned it early, even though, sometimes I think it was too early. In any case, I will continue listening to my personal advisor Marc Aurel. Just two days ago, he sent me this passage to reflect upon:

“Wir betrachten noch einmal die Eigentümlichkeit der vernünftigen Seele. Also: sie sieht sich selbst, sie setzt sich selbst auseinander, die Frucht, die sie hervorbringt, erntet sie auch selbst (nicht wie bei den Früchten, die die Pflanzen- oder Tiernatur hervorbringt, die andere ernten). Ferner, sie erreicht ihr Ziel, wann immer das Leben zu Ende sein mag: anders als bei den Tanzstücken, und bei jedem Schauspiel, wo die ganze Handlung zum bloßen Stückwerk wird, wenn etwas dazwischen kommt. Denn sie führt, was sie sich vorgesetzt, vollständig und makellos zu Ende, an welchem Teile der Handlung und wo überhaupt sie auch betroffen werden mag, so dass sie sagen kann: ‚Ich habe das Meinige beisammen.‘“ (Marc Aurel, Selbstbetrachtungen, 11:1)

Reflection Questions

1) How do you reward yourself after completing your daily tasks?

2) Do you agree that most people cannot be motivated based on long-term rewards?

3) If you were to give the present work world a name — how would you call it? What characterizes the organization/management of work today?

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Founder & CEO of Companypoets

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