Merit Pay Research Links

Merit and Bonus Pay Research Link List:

Key words of browser search: research on bonus pay motivation; (and similar variations).

I tried to find information relevant to service careers, although as the studies suggest, human motivation is ‘core’. Problems with merit and bonus pay are not restricted to service careers.

Generally, research revealed here confirms or supports my post on “Merit Pay – A Problem”.

Links marked QUICK-READ are to articles and summaries, and are fairly brief. (Exceptions are the BBC Forum broadcast (20 min of a 45 min program), and  Ariely’s Google video lecture – 60 min.)

Researchers/authors found in this list may also have more available at YouTube or elsewhere. Ariely and Kohn have published more books than named here.

Links are underlined and in ‘bold blue (supposed to be blue!).

Dan Ariely blog page:  Blog of general ‘life’ interest with focus on human irrationality. Books, research, videos, lecture dates pages. “Using simple experiments Dan Ariely studies how people actually act in the marketplace, as opposed to how they should or would perform if they were completely rational. His interests span a wide range of daily behaviors and his experiments are consistently interesting, amusing, and informative, demonstrating profound ideas that fly in the face of common wisdom. Dan is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology & Behavioral Economics at Duke University, where he holds appointments at the Fuqua School of Business, the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, the School of Medicine, and the department of Economics.” (excerpt from his site’s ‘brief bio’ page.)

QUICK-READ: Dan Ariely. youTube Dan Ariely speaks to google audience lecture on book, Predictably Irrational, 56 min, 2008.  Describes experiments and findings on what motivates our choices, highly enjoyable with good insight relevant to why merit pay doesn’t make work. (I’ve also posted this here, on “Thoughts from the Well”, here: Ariely’s Google Lecture.)

QUICK-READ: Dan Ariely. author, NYTimes op-ed article, “What’s the value of a big bonus?”, Nov 2008.

QUICK-READ: BBC Forum interview program. Dan Ariely research expert on questions of merit pay. BBC asks and hints: “Are big bonuses simply there for bankers to boost their image and line their pockets, rather than actually improve performance? … Israeli behavioural economist Dan Ariely has surprising insights into the behaviour of big earners. ” The portion of the 45 minute program featuring Ariely is the first portion, possibly 15-20 minutes. Mostly on bankers (worth hearing!), near the end of the interview, he is asked to comment on the issue of merit pay for teachers. His reply is clear and informative!

QUICK-READ: British Research: (underlines are mine) “motivation in practice – performance related pay – teachers”  Very brief commentary article, draws from report at Institute on Education in London, report not named. (I tried, but did not locate it at the IEL site.) Excerpt from ‘’ site, source of this quote: : ”“Study suggests performance related pay is inappropriate for teachers … However, a recent study has suggested that there is no evidence that paying teachers performance bonuses leads to better exam results or attracts more recruits to the profession. … Researchers from the Institute of Education in London found little evidence to suggest the payments had improved results or attracted more people into teaching. …The study argued that it is difficult to determine the impact of any one teacher on a pupil’s progress. …” A pupil may have private tuition, help at home, or any number of external influences. So we may never know objectively whether performance-related pay has positive effects on pupil learning outcomes” said Professor Dalton, a co-author of the study….The researchers even argue that bonus payments could be counter-productive because teachers were used to working together instead of competing with each other. … The researchers say it is a “difficult if not impossible task” to devise a performance-related pay system for teachers that makes them work harder and more productively, does not need expensive monitoring, encourages teamwork and discourages teaching to the test.””

Alfie Kohn website:  “Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. The author of twelve books and scores of articles, he lectures at education conferences and universities as well as to parent groups and corporations….” (My observation: from a quick glance at Kohn’s website, I’d expect to find much that lines up with Adlerian Individual Psychology understandings.)

QUICK-READ: Alfie Kohn. Article, NYTimes. October 17, 1993.  For Best Results – Forget the Bonus. Kohn briefly explores the following 7 points in his article, each under its own heading: Rewards punish; Like punishments, rewards are manipulative; Rewarding people is similar to punishment for another reason; Rewards rupture relations; Rewards ignore reasons; Rewards deter risk-taking; Rewards undermine interest.

Alfie Kohn.  Seller’s notes on Kohn book “Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993/ 1999) 1999 edition features a new Afterword by the author.

QUICK-READ: Caleb Storkley.  Professional blog site article “Does Paying A Bonus Increase Motivation?” explores potential for bonus pay to be effective, from point of view of management, based on human need models (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; Herzberg’s Motivator/Hygiene factors). Excerpt (underlines mine): “The Maintenance Factors are most important for a manager to look at before you try to add the ‘Motivators’ in place. Someone is not going to be motivated by recognition until they have job security in place. Equally, to try to motivate someone to think bigger, achieve more and go above and beyond, by dangling a carrot of ‘better work conditions’, will make very little difference if they are happy with their work surroundings. Instead they may respond far better to more responsibility, which recognises their capabilities. Understanding whether people’s ‘maintenance factors’ are met, helps to know how to motivate someone.

(End of links – more may be added as discovered.)


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