You Just Got A Bonus: Will You Work Harder?

A couple of decades ago, bonus pay was a good way to get employees to reach goals, work efficiently and stay motivated on the job. But now that bonuses are an expected compensation from employers, the reward tool may not be as powerful as it once was.

A recent study conducted by Willis Towers Watson, a management advisory firm, found that 25 percent of employers doled out bonuses to employees even if they did not meet their goals. This was attributed to the fact that only one in five employers found bonus pay to be an effective means of stimulating a higher performance level. Basically, people were given a bonus simply because it was an expected component of the job, and not because they deserved one.

Kris Duggan, CEO of goal software provider BetterWorks, suggests that bonuses have become a built-in expectation to an employee’s income. This, coupled with the fact that many employers still give out monetary compensation to workers who fail to meet expectations, renders bonus pay a less-than-effective tool.

Luckily, employers are realizing the changing tides in how to effectively motivate their workers to meet or exceed their goals. According to Duggan, proprietors are learning that linking pay to performance hinders the learning process. He says, “Employees become super obsessed with hitting the goal, and they don’t get past what they’re working on in the moment.”

So what can managers do to adequately spark enthusiasm and efficiency among employees?  Here are five things that actually do motivate people to do more, and do it better. It goes a lot deeper than money, as you’ll see.


Research has found that employee freedom is directly linked to happier and more productive workers. Allowing people the autonomy to choose their own schedules, how to execute given tasks, and even work from home leads to impressive results in the workplace.

Professor Marylène Gagné of John Molson School of Business says that the more creative freedom employees are given, the more likely they are to reach or exceed their goals. Even in jobs that don’t require much creativity, autonomy still increases worker satisfaction and grows productivity. In fact, Gagné found that when employers micromanage, workers become resentful and there’s a dramatic decrease in efficacy and productivity.

Effective leadership 

Few things are more frustrating in the workplace than having an ineffective or untrustworthy boss. According to Forbes, a boss that has his or her workers’ best interests at heart will gain employee trust and prompt motivation to achieve.  

When leaders act with integrity, they inspire a sense of pride among their employees. This encourages workers to want to please their boss and do their job to the best of their ability. On the other hand, productivity drops when leaders act inappropriately or do things contrary to the best interest of their employees. 

Effective communication

It’s difficult to be productive at your job when goals and tasks are unclear. When expectations are explicitly communicated, employees are more likely to meet their objectives. Understanding the hierarchy and functionality of the workplace is extremely important, making it easier for people to reach out for advice or help when they need it.  

Allowing clear and open dialogue between employers and employees is also an important motivational tool. When people feel comfortable contributing ideas or voicing concerns, they are more likely to be successful at their job. Having open lines of communication can also mean hosting social media forums for workers, such as Yammer, a tool that facilitates communication between workers and also with bosses.

Making a difference 

When people feel their job actually has an impact, they are more likely to achieve success. Being recognized by colleagues, managers or peers for our work motivates us to search for new ways to improve our skills and maximize our influence. 

When leaders can help their employees increase their relevance, they cultivate a sense of loyalty and increase performance. This encourages people to want to contribute to the long-term success of their company, and promotes sustainable productivity. When managers enable this mentality of continual growth, employees will look for opportunities to make a lasting impact in their job.


YouJustGotBonusWillYouworkHarder_640x359Ultimately, being happy at your job is one of the largest contributors to success and productivity. When people are unhappy in the workplace, they tend to show up less, are less productive and the overall quality of their work suffers. In fact, the Gallup-Healthways Wellbeing Index estimates that the United States loses $300 billion in productivity each year from worker unhappiness.

In general, people want purpose, meaning and happiness from their work. Enabling a favorable workplace dynamic and a comfortable environment can greatly reduce job-related stress and increase employee satisfaction. According to the American Psychological Association, encouraging a sense of community, facilitating open communication and rewarding good behavior are some effective ways to increase worker happiness.

Are you more motivated by money to do well at your job, or by a sense of meaning and happiness? Do you do better at your job when you have an effective boss? 

—Stephanie Catudal

Stephanie Catudal is a mother, writer, hiker and outdoor enthusiast.  She can often be found exploring the Ponderosa pine forests of Northern Arizona, or splashing in the cool waters of Sedona’s red rock canyons with her husband and two daughters.  Steph is a holistic health enthusiast and finds strength in her personal pursuit of fitness and wellness.  She has degrees in Media, Peace and Conflict studies and is passionate about building peace both abroad and within her community. 



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