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Punished by Rewards
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In his article, "Why Rewards Cannot Work," Alfie Kohn, the most prolific critic of rewards, once again explains how much he doesn't like rewards - and why he doesn't like them. Essentially, he views rewards as being bribes that send the message to people, "Do this...and I will give you this..." Kohn's major concern is about the controlling nature of incentive systems. Kohn believes that such incentives encourage employees to engage in short-term performance that will get rewarded and causes people to ignore performance that is not rewarded, and discourages risk taking. Because of the power that the reward-giver has over the prospective recipient, Kohn argues that they undermine authentic relationships, and lead to disappointment when people feel under-rewarded. He also believes that rewards reduce interest in tasks by replacing intrinsic motivation with external incentives for doing things. The article is primarily concerned with pre-announced monetary rewards, and says nothing about non-monetary (or symbolic) rewards or recognition. Following is Bob Nelson's response to Alfie Kohn's arguments as originally published by The Small Business Forum.