I recently came across an article by Bloomberg columnist Ruchika Tulshyan, author and founder of the workplace inclusivity organisation ‘Candour’. She spoke of employees feeling happier and more empowered in organisations where there was the transparency of pay scales. The Idea she proposed was around creating more equity in pay scales but this idea correlated with several conversations I’ve been having with employees of organisations around the metrics for their success, including compensation.
Organisational behaviour research has revealed that pure compensation is not the only metric for motivating employees and inspiring them to give their best or reach their highest potential. This idea is not new at all.
Once again if I go back to the ancient Hindu philosophical ideas of human personality, we all have three components to a personality: Tamas, Rajas, and Sattva (loosely translated to stand for inertia or indolence, frenzied or desired ridden activity, and trans-active or an equanimous and powerful state of being, respectively.
The hypothesis is that while each of us has all of these in us, each of us has this varying proportions in each of us (and they can also vary at different stages of our life, and indeed at different times of the day - the belief is that we are more sattvik in the early morning hours, and get progressively more rajasik and finally tamasik by the end of the day - but that is a topic for another day).
Back to what motivates us: what if managers (and employees) were to use their reflections and reviews to identify the more evidence-based corresponding mindsets in each team member, and create more individualised paths of success, of a professional journey, and of compensation, based on what drives us, what values we bring to the workplace, and where we see our career and lives going?
If this sounds idealistic and too time-consuming there is ample research, and evidence of the cost of holding every employee to the same metric of success and output. And equally, this is something that good managers and empowered employees all over the world are already doing in one way or the other.
Most recently I had a chance to speak to the founders of a company after having coached one of their founding team members (with their permission, of course). All three parties agreed that although this member was in sales, his motivation didn’t come from just numbers, but from being aligned to the founders’ vision and for creating deep relationships which could then be leveraged for repeat sales and referrals. For my client that meant a tremendous reduction in stress of being held to a metric that he didn’t resonate with and felt himself constantly falling short of. And his compensation was adjusted accordingly as well. The founders saw great value in what he brought to the team and were also relieved to understand their friend and long-time team member better.
For another client, her sales job was a means to an end… she liked and respected her team, was proficient, responsible, and delivered well. She just didn’t enjoy competitiveness or being tyrannised by a weekly leaderboard. Her focus was on building her side gig that was more aligned with her personal values. Having an open conversation with her manager made her feel so much more empowered and topping the rewards list week after week, she found, was meaningless to her. This allowed her to focus on her work and her side gig with the waves of anxiety washing over her every few hours.
The idea is that a person who is indolent needs the metaphorical stick or consequences/punishments to get them up and about.
The person who is already in motion could be motivated through rewards and compensation, but this just leads to greater and greater frenzy for most and eventual burnout. While this works in the short term, and competition can be fun, in the long term, finding meaning, resonance, and alignment to larger values could maximise potential, well-being, and overall success.
For a person who is internally motivated, all they need is equitable compensation, agency, and autonomy, and these could be the most powerful leaders and brand ambassadors of an organisation.
Read Ruchika’s article here.