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How to Demotivate Your Best Employees

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How to Demotivate Your Best Employees

Harvard Business School Working Knowledge,

5 min read
5 take-aways
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An award program designed to boost productivity resulted in high achievers working less.

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  • Eye Opening
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Recognition motivates employees, yet some company award programs have the opposite effect. A recent Harvard Business School study reveals that it matters a great deal how managers award employees, and for what. Freelance writer Dina Gerdeman talked with one of the study’s co-authors to find out how a well-intentioned incentive program ended up alienating a company’s most valuable employees. getAbstract recommends her article to managers who want to recognize their employees the right way.


More than 80% of companies seek to increase employee motivation using rewards. Certain types of employee recognition programs, however, can cause more harm than good. Harvard Business School professor Ian Larkin and his colleagues studied a nine-month-long attendance award program at an industrial laundry facility, which sought to increase productivity, yet ended up doing the opposite.

The plant manager’s goal was to discourage unexcused absences and late arrivals. At the end of each month, the manager convened a meeting at which ...

About the Author

Dina Gerdeman is a freelance news and features writer for Harvard Business School and other outlets. 

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