As the holidays are approaching faster and I find myself at the end of my “naughty or nice” list, I realize that the only people left on the list that I need to find presents for are – how do I say this politely – the people I like the least. I’ve had presents for months in advance (good, awesome, thoughtful presents) for the people on my list I like the most, and I’ve enjoyed the process of coming up with gifts that I think are exceptional for them. Now, I’m not saying that I hate my Aunt Ethel* (she’s last on the list), I’m just saying I don’t like her much, and finding her a present is a lot more R- than R+. No matter what I buy her she’s never that impressed, but getting her nothing would be even more of a travesty. So year after year I deal with the lesser of two evils and force myself to buy her another cable knit sweater or holiday themed serving tray because I have to give her something.
After some thought I realized that gift giving is a lot like what happens in the workplace. We’re happy to get gifts, to work hard on them, for the people we like. There’s a lot of reinforcement (R+) for it. We’re also happy to work hard, produce great results, and go above and beyond for great leaders that we like. Discretionary effort is found in the magical land of R+ where people do things because they want to. In the distant, cold, gray, evil land of R- people do things because they have to, under threats and aversive conditions. There’s no discretionary effort to be found there.
If you find yourself getting cable knit sweaters and holiday serving trays from your people, it may be worth considering relocating your people to the magical land of R+. You’ll be happier with the results, and they’ll be much happier delivering them.
*Names have been changed to protect identity.
To read other articles from our festive holiday edition of the BMT Newsletter, click here.